Leadership roles in high school extracurricular activities are typically reserved for the upperclassmen.
Not so at the new Weeki Wachee High School, which during its first year is filled with just freshmen and sophomores. Instead, commanding roles are filled mostly by novices. And they're doing admirable work, according to their teachers.
This weekend, as the school's drama department presents its first musical, Meet Me in St. Louis, the ensemble members plan to show that their stage skills can match more experienced performers.
And to ensure they do, they've recruited the assistance of some familiar names in community theater productions.
Keith Meccia, a regular Stage West performer, is assistant director. Carol Ballard, also of Stage West, is the show's co-producer. The set was designed and built by Tom Hanson of the Show Palace Dinner Theater, and choreographer Michelle Alagna is also from the Show Palace and Stage West. Hernando County Fine Arts Council executive director Myndee Washington is in charge of costume design, hair and makeup.
Support has also come from Randi Olsen from the Live Oak Theatre Company and from Tim and Lori Erickson at Nature Coast Technical High School.
"We are surrounded by an incredible production team," said Morgan Burburan, Weeki Wachee High's director of choirs and musical theater. "Each are experts in their own field."
And to take advantage of what these experienced hands can offer, each has been teamed with student counterparts.
Meet Me in St. Louis is based on the 1944 movie that starred Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien. It takes place in 1904, with the eight-member Smith family caught up in the excitement of the World's Fair coming to their Midwestern city. It is a musical filled with favorite holiday and loves songs, such as Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Trolley Song, Skip to My Lou and The Boy Next Door.
Cast in the lead role is sophomore Alexis Pletincks as Esther Smith. Esther and her sister, Rose, played by Sabrina Luesher, are in love with the boys next door, John Truitt and Warren Sheffield, performed by freshmen Jordan Daniels and Christian Braz, respectively.
The Smith family — and the budding romances — goes into a frenzy when the Smith patriarch announces the family will be moving to New York.
In her first lead role, Pletincks also plays her first romantic role on the stage.
"I've heard a few times that our chemistry is really good on stage," Pletincks, who turns 16 on Saturday, said about Daniels. "It's the first romantic role for both of us. … I'm just glad I'm co-starring with someone who can do it well."
While singing has not been a problem — she's the 17th-ranked alto in the state — Pletincks said the most difficulty she has faced during rehearsals has been acting "excitable."
"It was more difficult for me to do the upbeat, peppy type of acting than the soft, more emotional acting," she admitted.
The show includes a cast of 20, plus 19 crew members. Burburan said the production is the first for all but three.
"This is new to everyone, including me, but it is really coming along," she said. "Students meet the expectations you set for them. They are working at a high level and really hard. Their work ethic is just as much, if not more, as the upperclassmen. … They are an amazing group."