One thing's guaranteed for those who venture out to see Wesley Chapel High's musical production this year: they'll see an original experience.
When the curtain goes up March 21 at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel, audience members will experience the world premiere, so to speak, of Presidents! The Musical. With a little help from his friends and past students, Wesley Chapel drama teacher Sean Gaudet wrote and composed this year's musical.
"It's a comedy musical. It's actually based on a really short, really lousy musical I tried to write with some of my students back in 2005," said Gaudet, Pasco County's 2010 Teacher of the Year. "I always thought somewhere in the middle there was a really good musical waiting to be written."
After shelving the musical for several years, Gaudet dusted it off and started working on it over the summer and continues tweaking it during rehearsals. What has emerged is a 12-song production about a traveling musical troupe that goes to a local school to teach students about the presidents. It's an audience-interactive, behind-the-scenes look at the worst traveling troupe to hit the road, complete with the most poorly researched songs about presidents, Gaudet said. Songs include I Chopped Down the Cherry Tree (But I Swear It Was in Self Defense) and You Could Be President, Too (But Probably Not).
"It's sort of Schoolhouse Rock meets Wikipedia," he said, adding that there's a love triangle and missing person thrown into the mix. "It's supposed to be really fun and wacky."
Presidents! is just one of the high school productions this season that provide the full theater experience at a bargain price. Most of the shows are running between $5 and $12.
"We have productions that are almost professional level," said Patrick McDermott, director for the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel. "The public should afford themselves to come out and see these shows."
Sunlake High brings West Side Story to the stage Feb. 24 and Feb. 25; Academy at the Lakes will present its version of The Wizard of Oz on March 2 and 3; and Wiregrass Ranch High will feature Guys and Dolls March 16-18, to name a few.
Fivay High brings the Disney film Aladdin to life as Aladdin Jr. for a three-day run starting March 29.
"It's a story everyone knows, but we've added our touches," said drama teacher Ana Medders.
One of the things that Medders enjoys about doing musicals is it brings the entire school community together. The school's sign language club, for instance, will sign the major musical numbers.
"The costumes are going to be phenomenal," Medders added. "I have a parent who is working on the costumes and what she'd done has blown my mind."
It's because of shows like these, said Tom Gale, director of the Center for the Arts at River Ridge, that Pasco residents don't have to drive to places like Tampa, Sarasota and St. Petersburg to see quality performances.
"We have really good music going on here," he said.