McAlester High School had a blast from the past opening night performance of “Montage Of The Years” on Thursday.
Since I first started at the News-Capital in late July, I had heard whispers of an upcoming production at S. Arch Thompson Auditorium in the fall that would feature music from my beloved decade — the 1960s.
This, of course, drew my attention and I dug into the exciting production while writing a story about the auditorium.
“It will be like an episode from ‘The Carol Burnett Show,’” MPS Fine Arts Director David Steidley told me.
I had never watched an episode of “The Carol Burnett Show,” but I understood its premise.
The closest thing I could compare the show to in my head was the fast-paced Broadway production style of “Jersey Boys,” which I saw in New York City in 2015 that would have the actors sliding onto the stage with chairs and other props and then quickly removing them between scenes.
The night finally arrived for the production and after failing to find parking at the auditorium I knew this was going to be a big show.
After a chilly walk to the auditorium, I soon started to regret not wearing a tux for a program of this caliber.
The audience was filled with attendees young and old — some were high school students watching their peers and some were former Montage members reminiscing about when they performed.
The first section of the show started off with the swingin’ music of the 1950s and early 1960s — with cast members dressed in ‘50s garb and dancing to an instrumental rendition of “In The Mood” by The Glenn Miller Orchestra.
As the cast members swung and danced to the sounds of the ‘50s, it was apparent this show was no ordinary high school performance.
Something I found interesting was the performance of The Beach Boys’ 1964 hit “I Get Around,” which The Beach Boys themselves performed nearly 50 years ago in the same auditorium in April 1969.
Dr. Robert L. Spinks — who produced this performance of Montage — told me after the show that he attended the Beach Boys concert in 1969 and made sure to include the song they performed that day.
If the walls of S. Arch Thompson Auditorium could talk, I’m certain they would have stories to tell.
The show also offered skits — one called “Fairy Tales Anonymous,” which featured classic fairy tale characters like the evil witch from Hansel and Gretel, played by Carley Mills, and the wolf who blew the house down, played by Avery Rock, and Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, played by Katherine Baker.
Due to their bad deeds like “accidentally” locking children into a cage to eat them, and blowing peoples house’s down, these characters were put into anger management with an unhelpful therapist played by Phyliss Duncan, and her quirky assistant played by Casey Davis.
During the section with music from the ‘60s and ‘70s songs included “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees, “Hey Jude” By The Beatles, and an ensemble performance of “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” by The 5th dimension.
It looked like a scene taken directly out of the 1979 musical “Hair.”
After a 15-minute intermission and trying to hold back emotions due to how well-done this performance was during the first half, the lights dimmed and the curtains opened and we were transported to the music of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Music has always had a deep meaning to me since I was very young so it wasn’t a surprise that this performance triggered some emotions.
The third section had more of a fun feel with dance numbers for “Dancing Queen” by Abba, “Footloose,” by Kenny Loggins and a musical number of “Grease” where cast members were dressed in leather jackets like John Travolta and girls in dresses like Olivia Newton-John, while they performed “Summer Nights,” You’re the One That I Want,” and “We Go Together.”
Students at McAlester High School stopped having the Montage Of The Years performances sometime in the ‘80s, so the last section of the show was an imagination of what would have happened if Montage continued throughout the ‘80s to present time.
During this section, the cast performed an ensemble of “Don’t stop Belivin’ “ by Journey and “I Will Always Love You,” by Whitney Houston, and songs from 2012’s “Les Miserables.”
The program ended with the cast and audience singing together on a rendition of the MHS Alma Mater.
After the show, I spoke with students from Oklahoma City University who were brought in as members of the cast after the show and I asked them what it was like performing with performers that were doing this show nearly 50 years ago.
“It was very interesting and so fascinating for us to be part of a tradition that we didn’t necessarily experience, but we go to school in a small community like this and it was very fun,” said Delanie Kinney.
McAlester High School is having two more performances on Saturday, Oct 13, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $14 and all proceeds go towards scholarships for graduating seniors.
Contact Spencer Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org
Montage of the Years
McAlester High School
Score: FIVE SPOTLIGHTS
Contact Spencer Cox at email@example.com