The Nikiski/Middle High School students participating in the spring musical this weekend are doing anything but sticking to the status quo.
They are performing “High School Musical,” an early-2000s Disney trilogy about a varsity basketball star and a Stanford-recruit “mathlete” who find passion in the theater — testing the boundaries between their own passions and the confines their high school places them in.
Teacher Carla Jenness, who is spearheading Nikiski’s “High School Musical” rendition, said the cast is as diverse as the movies portray.
“My whole goal was to bring in a whole bunch of kids from different [backgrounds], kind of like the story of the musical — bring in kids that normally wouldn’t think of themselves as theater kids,” she said. “We have a great cross section of our whole student body.”
Including actors, choreographers and stage hands, Jenness said, more than 50 students are involved in the production.
This is Jenness’s first year putting on the show, and many of the musical’s leads are also new to the stage.
Sophomore Braeden Porter this weekend plays the lead basketball star, Troy Bolton. Before this production, he hadn’t acted since his debut in “The Wizard of Oz” in second grade.
He played a different character last weekend, and said he is both nervous and excited to take center stage on Friday.
“It’s cool to be able to do some kind of thing that’s school-involved without having to restrict it too much, as far as mitigation,” Porter said.
Last year the high school’s production of “Barnum” was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Junior Camry Ellis is playing the female lead, mathlete whiz kid Gabriella Montez.
She said she’s done some acting with the Triumvirate Theatre in Kenai, but has yet to take the stage for an audience at her high school.
Ellis was a part of the “Barnum” production last spring until it got called off.
Even though she’s acted before, she said she still gets nervous sometimes. She only did her first solo last year.
“I have really bad stage fright, but I wanted to overcome it,” she said. “Last weekend I actually felt pretty good — I wasn’t crazy nervous — I was more excited.”
Ellis played an extra last weekend, so transitioning to leading lady is nerve-wracking, she said, but exciting.
“I’m actually really excited about it because I grew up watching ‘High School Musical,’” she said. “I never thought I’d be playing her, but I’ve always watched it and thought it was so cool … it feels kind of like the movie.”
Sophomore Brady Bostic plays Chad Danforth this weekend, another character on the basketball team.
This is his first time performing in the theater, and he said it makes him a little nervous.
“Sports and stuff help with that, because that’s what I do,” Bostic said.
He plays on the Nikiski High School basketball team, so the basketball scenes in the show come somewhat naturally to him.
Ms. Darbus, the over-the-top drama teacher in the movie, is played by sophomore Jessica Perry.
“She’s super fun to play,” Perry said. “I’ve seen the movie a ton of times with my sister growing up and just getting to be a part of it is super cool, and she’s just such a unique character.”
Perry said she’s excited to be a part of an in-person event again, after so many things were interrupted last year because of the pandemic.
“To get to see something start to finish actually work out, it’s such an incredible experience after the past year,” she said.
Junior Levi Anderson, who played last weekend’s Troy Bolton, said he used to be too shy to sing in front of people until this year. This is also the first time he’s been involved in the theater.
“It’s definitely opened me up — like I sing all the time now — and I don’t really care who hears me sing,” he said.
Last weekend, Jenness said, the show nearly had a full house.
“It’s been going amazing,” she said. “The kids are really great, super enthusiastic.”
The final production of “High School Musical” will be at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Nikiski Middle/High School auditorium. Tickets are available online at the Nikiski Middle/High School website, or by calling 907-776-9400.