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Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:13

Hard work put into Tarzan musical production will pay off for Eagle Butte High School students

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Tensions run high with Tarzan (Michael Christiensen, left), Clayton (Stephen Vroks) and Jane (Shondie Jensen). Tensions run high with Tarzan (Michael Christiensen, left), Clayton (Stephen Vroks) and Jane (Shondie Jensen).

Eagle Butte High School drama teacher Scott Raible sits and scours his large throng of young thespians dressed in jeans, sweat pants and sweaters as they go over a scene in one of the many rehearsals and practices the group has done since auditions started in November and December.

It’s probably not too often someone gets to perform in an authentic Disney production, but this is what is at the cusp for the cast and crew of Eagle Butte High School.
The students who have gone to school in Redcliff, Irvine, and Seven Persons are excited to not only be a part of a production which is on such a grand scale, but to also perform it on the stage of the Esplanade in Medicine Hat.
In a high-school production, there is a lot of doubling up of characters so on this day, the scenes are often replicated using two different sets of performers playing the same characters. The only two people who don’t share the characters are Stephen Vrok (Clayton) and Micheal Christiensen (Tarzan).
Shondie Jensen said she really wanted to be Jane and along with Hannah Pohl the two share those duties. She also recently shared the Esplanade stage with comedian Brent Butt.
The play’s producers are fortunate to have so much talent at their disposal. Jensen who won the 2014 Medicine Hat Stampede Talent Competition has performed in the area the last year or so and Pohl has been doing a lot of work with some community theatre companies in Medicine Hat.
The effort they are putting into the rehearsal is quite noticeable. They are genuinely excited and proud to put on a show of this magnitude and really can’t wait to hit the stage. Each have embraced their characters, especially Vrok who has a diabolical smile which stands out.
“I love it,” explains Vrok, 16, wearing a Cheshire cat grin. Vrok genuinely means it. Watching him attack the character with great zeal, he is totally into playing the greedy and diabolical Clayton, leader of the entourage who wants to kill the gorillas.
“I was very excited to play him. It’s a big part, but I didn’t want to have the pressure of playing Tarzan.”
Vrok has the accent, being from England, as well having lived in a few different countries. His British accent comes through effortlessly despite the fact he has lived in Canada for the last four years.
Many of his castmates agree he is enjoying the part, but say he is the complete opposite character in real life. 
“On the one hand he’s the most hated person in the play, but that’s why he’s going to be the most popular,” explains Alyssa Renke, who as Kerslake, the gorilla father of Tarzan, dies after being shot by Clayton.
She is thrilled to be part of the play. She went into the audition months ago with an open mind.
“It doesn’t matter what you role you put me in, (I told them) I can do it,” explains Renke who is keeping busy with sports including basketball.
This sentiment has definitely come to fruition as Renke has the challenging task of playing a male gorilla. Renke doesn’t have the deepest of voices so learning to get her inner deep gorilla voice was something which needed to be practised.
“It’s hard to monkey-walk on the floor,” she says sheepishly.
All have their challenges but have worked hard to overcome them. There is a lot of movement in the production so knowing your lines, having your musical timing and your stage direction down is critical, but the physical demands are also high.
“I have to do a lot of dancing and jumping and I have two left feet,” says a smiling Meagan Crawford, who is one of the show’s two Terks, adding her family is coming to every show.
“Oh my gosh, it’s so hard and there’s lots of running.”
Right now, the focus is on putting on a good show, ensuring they add that extra which will make the production that much better. Amazingly, during the Feb. 14 rehearsal, there was no question of their memorization of lines and the timing of the actions with the musical score.
“We just have to focus on not stressing out,” explains Megan Pohl, twin sister of Hannah. “(We) just have to stick with it ... we’re all one big family.”
“We’re not going to be (truly) feeling it, until we all get on the stage,” adds Renke who is thankful like the other cast members on how the entire school has joined together to contribute to the play.
Music students are helping as are the cosmetology students.
Disney’s Musical Tarzan will take place at the Esplanade in Medicine Hat from Feb. 26-28. Thursday and Friday’s performances start at 7 p.m. while Saturday’s performances is at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 plus service charges available online at

Read 4583 times Last modified on Thursday, 19 February 2015 15:17
Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor