High school students take center stage

Published 01/07 2013 06:24PM

Updated 01/07 2013 06:42PM

URBANA -- Illinois high school students are getting ready to take the stage for their moment in the spotlight. They'll get to sing and dance in this week's statewide theatre conference. Students from all over the state auditioned and only the best made the cut. They'll be performing "Memphis," a play that won a Tony award for best musical three years ago.

There are five students from Champaign high schools in the production. And they've been working like real Broadway performers. They've had just 13 rehearsals leading up to this week's opening. This will be the first production of "Memphis" that hasn't been performed on Broadway or one of the national touring shows.

Champaign Centennial High School senior Riley Hill-Kartel has gone to the festival the past two years. This time, she'll be onstage.

"Watching the other all-state productions, it's always just a wow moment," said Hill-Kartel. "Everybody wants to be a part of it. So actually being a part of it this year has been really cool so I'm excited to share what we've created with all the other high school kids in Illinois."

The actors auditioned last May. They've rehearsed together one weekend a month.

"One big super-theater production where everyone is just focused," said Champaign Central High School senior Adrian Rochelle. "Everyone has the same work ethic as you. Everybody is just ready to work all the time and put on a great show."

Between weekends, they'd practice on their own, but the actors said it wasn't the same.

"You just really miss people when you part for the weekend, especially when the weekends are really far apart because you just get so close to everyone in those three short days," said Rochelle.

One perk of being the first non-Broadway performers is the real stars came to show them the moves.

"We've gotten the privilege to meet a lot of the original cast so that's really cool to get their feedback and their insight on their show," said Hill-Kartel.

And now they're excited for the curtain to go up on opening night. The students also built the entire set in that same time-span -- just 13 rehearsals. Some of the Broadway actors plan to come watch the show when it opens this week.

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