Monday, February 19, 2018
Stage

Weeki Wachee High set to bring 'Oklahoma!' to stage this weekend

WEEKI WACHEE

As the director of choirs and musical theater at Weeki Wachee High School, Morgan Burburan had no doubt she had a wonderful cast of singers and actors for this year's spring musical.

But there was one small glitch: This year's show was not your ordinary musical.

"This is a dancing show, and there were only three or four in the cast who were dancers. ... It was a little scary at first."

But after months of rehearsals — including seven solid weeks of dancing and choreography — the cast of more than 25 students is prepared to wow audiences this weekend when Weeki Wachee presents its production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!

The show, which Burburan co-directs with Keith Meccia, follows the song and dance routines of the original score. While some dances have been shortened for time, quality has not been sacrificed, Burburan said.

"We didn't want to lessen the integrity of the show" by removing dance numbers, she said.

To help make it all possible, Burburan recruited the assistance of noted dance instructor Edwina Nelson, who currently works at John Leggio's Center for the Performing Arts in Spring Hill.

"(Nelson) is really incredible," Burburan said. "She successfully turned non-dancers into fantastic dancers."

The show stars juniors Lexi McDaniel as Laurey the farm girl and Christian Braz as Curly, the cowboy who loves her. Other performers include Laura Bennett as Aunt Eller, Nicole Piccinich as Ado Annie, Colin Brooks as Ali Hakim and Erik-Lee Troche as Will Parker.

Although she has had supporting roles in the school's productions of Meet Me in St. Louis and Into the Woods, as well as in Stage West's Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr., Laurey is the first leading role for McDaniel, 17.

The role has its challenges, McDaniel admits.

"This is actually the first time I am playing an adult role," said McDaniel, who noted that her character also has serious moments and gets put into situations that she has never had to deal with in roles as younger characters.

McDaniel said she enjoys singing Many a New Day, but her favorite is The Farmer and the Cowman ensemble.

"I love (Laurey's) attitude and sassiness in how she reacts with Curley," McDaniel said.

"Lexi has been extremely dedicated," Burburan said. "I'm so impressed by her."

Braz, also 17, is not new to taking on strong characters. He has performed as both Prince Charming and the Big Bad Wolf in last year's Into the Woods, as well as Daddy Warbucks in Stage West's production of Annie Jr. last summer.

"(Curly) is charming like the prince, but also brings a mature side, like Daddy Warbucks. ... When it comes down to business, Curly can be real serious," Braz said.

Braz said his favorite number is Surrey with a Fringe on Top, and his favorite scene is in the smokehouse with Jud the ranch hand, played by Jordan Daniels.

"Jud is a serious character," Braz said.

And while Curly and Jud are not fond of one another, Braz said he and Daniels are actually best friends.

Since the two teens have been friends for years, the fight scene in the final act somewhat unnerves the show's producer, Nicki Helsley, who is also Braz's mother.

"It is an intense fight scene," Helsley said. "As a mom, it's hard to watch the two boys do that scene. ... They're good at it."

Although he's never been a dancer, Braz said he was able to pick up the choreography. On the other hand, he found the music to be a challenge.

"Last year, we did Sondheim, and that wasn't as difficult as this," Braz said. "There are a lot of repeats, but words are different. ... It definitely was a challenge."

"Christian has been fantastic," Burburan said, adding that he's taken rehearsals a step further by taking dance lessons. "The entire cast has been very dedicated. ... They spent seven weeks alone just on the choreography, and it shows. They are all very good, strong performers."

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