Ellington — Ellington High School’s Opening Knight Players are preparing to raise the curtain on High School Musical, based on the 2006 movie.
Sophomore Emily Wegiel plays Sharpay, who she describes as an “out there” character, who is also sassy and dramatic.
“She’s a theatre kid, she’s the star of the school,” Wegiel said. “She’s starred in all of her school productions. She expects to get the lead in the show, but this new girl, Gabriella, comes in and steals the part. Sharpay is not happy about that.”
The players haven’t put on a musical since 2019, so there are adjustments to be made by asking actors to learn singing and dancing, as well as acting.
“It’s been hard to get back to normal, after COVID,” Wegiel said. “It has its challenges, because we’re not used to it and we haven’t done it in a while. But, everyone is putting in the work - going the extra mile.”
“The thing with musicals is that you have choreography, music, and acting, and it all has to be done simultaneously,” said Julia Wilson, who plays Gabriella, the mysterious new “freaky math girl” at the high school. “It’s challenging, but our group - we just make it work. We’re probably best known for being multi-faceted and very good at multi-tasking.”
Wilson said it’s also challenging to play her character, because she is shy, but still needs to convey emotion, as Gabriella winds up being the love interest of Troy Bolton, who is the basketball star.
“She tries to keep a low profile,” Wilson said. “She’s shy and reserved. She doesn’t really share any of her opinions. With Troy, she’s able to open up.”
Wegiel said her favorite scenes are where she gets to dance with costar Will Naraghi, who plays Ryan, Sharpay’s twin brother.
“They’re very fun,” she said.
Naraghi also chairs the sound and filming crews, but says he also likes performing with Wegiel.
“We’re kind of comic relief characters, but also kind of the villains,” he said. “Sharpay is the big personality. I’m supposed to match her, but also kind of follow her. She makes it very obvious that I am below her. Ryan’s character evokes Sharpay’s inner monologue.”
His favorite scene is their final number, “Bop to the Top.”
“It’s really big and extravagant. The harmonies are really cool. We get to dance, and we look awesome in a dress and a suit,” Naraghi said.
The actors said there are plenty of reasons people should come see the show.
“It’s very entertaining,” Wegiel said. “Everyone has worked really hard to put this production on, and to make it a good experience for the audience. They will definitely have a good time.”
“It’s a classic,” Wilson said. “For a lot of people, it was a childhood movie - very nostalgic. It’s a good way to send the seniors on their way. It’s what we wish our high schools were like - breaking into music in the hallways or cafeteria and having it sound good.”
“It’s an awesome display of months of work,” Naraghi said. “It’s also just really fun - fun dances, fun singing, good singers, good dancers, good actors. When you’re watching people have fun on stage, it’s a really good time.”
High School Musical will be performed May 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 22 at 2 p.m. at the Gordon C. Getchell Auditorium at Ellington High School. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students. For more information, visit www.openingknightplayers.com.