The young actors in the Hayden School District's upcoming play, "The Dastardly Doctor Devereaux," can barely contain themselves on stage. Reciting the melodramatic lines makes them giggle at themselves.
Hayden High School English teacher and play director Gary Shaw is confident they'll get over it and the students will be able to present their lines with straight faces by opening night, and the people laughing hysterically will be in the audience, not on stage.
The group of young performers has been practicing for more than a month and will present the play at 1:30 p.m. March 11 to Hayden School District students and at 7 p.m. March 12 to the general public. With only a week to practice for "The Dastardly Doctor Devereaux," Shaw's first musical production in the 21 years he has taught in Hayden, and still a few bumps to smooth out in the production, Shaw simply said, "I like to live dangerously."
"Devereaux" is a melodramatic comedy. Its characters are stereotypical, have exaggerated emotions and language, simplistic morality -- and they sing. "Lotta Cash," for example, is a rich hospital owner who ignorantly blurts out in public that she doesn't carry more that $10,000 in cash at a time.
The play is set in a hospital owned by the rich widow Lotta Cash. The evil Dogsbreath Devereaux, M.D., plans to marry Cash so he can inherit her fortune and her late husband's hospital. But he secretly tells his nurse and partner in crime, Hilda Hatchet, that he will wed her after he gets rid of Cash.
When Devereaux and Hatchet discover another nurse eavesdropping on their diabolical plan, they plan to kill the nurse and, soon, everyone else on the hospital staff.
Junior Chris Willingham will play the lead role of Devereaux in his first play. Acting was just one of two major criteria. Most of the characters also must have the ability to sing. Music teacher Tim Watt was in charge of finding this second characteristic in each of the prospective actors, and he is directing the musical sections.
Willingham had his lines memorized last week, but Shaw said, "He has to get meaner. When he comes on stage, everyone should boo him. The problem is, he's not mean in real life."
Another one of the actors said her role is easy because it is not a far stretch from her own personality. Hannah Williams said playing the scatterbrained nurse, Ivy Drip, is like being herself, but the role takes being ditsy to the extreme. Drip takes everything literally -- when another nurse says someone will have to cover the front desk, Williams jumps on top of the table, covering it with her body.
"I like to think I'm smart," Williams said about her character, "but I'm really ditsy. I even trip over myself."
Most of the characters in the play are, Shaw said, "one taco short of a combo plate," so it is up to Wendy March, played by freshman Becky Rosendale, and Dr. Phil Good, played by sophomore Adam Akers -- possibly the only mentally competent characters, to save the day.
Shaw said his theater arts class read several scripts this year, and this one stood out.
"This play seemed funny enough, and we figured we could do the music," Shaw said. "We could see the kids doing it and the community laughing at it."