Despite my well-earned reputation as a pathological attention seeker, my participation in high school musicals was limited to the relative anonymity of playing trombone in the orchestra pit.

Travis Naughton

Although I was no stranger to the stage, having been a member of Hannibal High School’s studio jazz ensemble, a two-time performer at the annual talent show, and a student council president who was fond of delivering “remember that one time when Travis Naughton staged an assassination attempt at an assembly”-type speeches to the student body, I never had the guts to try out for a part in any of my school’s theatrical productions.

The cast members of Southern Boone High’s production of “High School Musical” had the guts not only to audition, but also to perform before a packed house multiple times last week. And guess what: they nailed it.

Of all the musicals I’ve seen in my life, I must say that I enjoyed this one the most—expressly because of those talented and gutsy performers. As a substitute teacher for grades K-2, I have had the pleasure of getting to know most of the younger kids in our community, and through my son Alex, who is a sophomore, I know quite a few tenth-graders as well. But aside from a handful of upperclassmen, I’m not terribly familiar with many of the older students in our district. That’s a real shame, because based on what I saw at last Friday night’s musical performance, I wish I knew more of those kids.

The thing that struck me about the musical was not the delivery of lines or the singing and dancing, but instead it was the charisma and personality of each of the actors that shined through. In short, those kids are characters—not just on stage, but in real life.

When a technical glitch held up the start of Friday’s show, Olivia Imler and Rain Cross stepped onto the stage and improvised a time-filling comedy routine that involved joke telling, primate impressions (including the hurling of imaginary monkey excrement), and more. Talk about guts! During the actual production, both girls were hilarious as their respective characters, and their very real comedic talents became obvious to everyone in attendance.

Ryan Nolan was positively delightful (and quite the scene-stealer) as the flamboyant but victimized twin brother of the narcissistic and manipulative Sharpay, played convincingly by Ava Anderson. My son informed me afterward that Ava is in fact the polar opposite of the character she portrayed, making her performance all the more impressive.

Hugh Keene and Lexi Borisenko, the leads of the production, were perfect for their roles. They lent an air of authenticity to the performance that I did not expect. In a story about kids from different backgrounds stepping out of their comfort zones in order to try something new, Lexi, Hugh, and the rest of the cast were believable, likeable, and relatable in their performances. Was it life imitating art or the other way around?

High school English teacher Ashley McCrady, who directed the musical, wrote a note in the back of the program that describes these young people perfectly: “Recently I was struck by how much these kids from different ‘cliques’ care for and protect each other, and I mentioned it to a colleague. He replied, ‘That’s why we work at Southern Boone. These kids, and their love for each other, are the reason we’re here.’ He couldn’t be more right. The premise of the show has become our reality for the past six weeks, and man, has it been fun to watch!”

Ms. McCrady, it certainly was fun to watch, and I want to thank you for directing the musical and for investing so much of your time and energy on our young people. Congratulations to you and the entire cast and crew for a job well done—and for giving the citizens in our community yet another reason to be proud to call ourselves Eagles. We are Southern Boone!