The Washougal High School drama department is warming up voices, instruments and sound systems to prepare for Irving Berlin’s classic songs, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” and “There’s no business like show business,” which will fill the auditorium when students take the stage to perform the 1940s musical, “Annie Get Your Gun,” this week.
The musical opens at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 16, at the Washougal High School’s Washburn Auditorium. Students will perform again at 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17, and at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24.
Tickets will be available at the door, and cost $8 for students and seniors, and $10 for adults.
Washougal senior Bridgette McCarthy, who has been performing since she was just 4 years old and appeared in more than 20 productions, takes on her first lead role as sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
“She is a very down-to-Earth girl, and she just has this sense of a genuine personality,” McCarthy says of her iconic character. “She has such a big heart, and she is who she is and she doesn’t care that that’s who she is. She’s very willing to do anything that you ask her to do and she just has this happy energy about her all the time.”
McCarthy says her character, who starts out with a backwoods personality but becomes more refined throughout the play, never changes who she is at heart.
McCarthy is excited about her lead role, but says it’s the cast and crew that drew her to Washougal drama productions.
“The thing that I love about, especially Washougal theater, is it’s always such a family environment and you’re always supported here by everybody and anybody who’s there, which is really amazing,” McCarthy says.
McCarthy has been a part of the drama department since she was a freshman, and says she loves to act because it offers her another way to share a story other than writing.
“In this way, you can share it in a much more personalized and embodied way, and challenging the audience to have to think about things,” McCarthy says.
WHS theater director Kelly Gregerson says one of the best parts of directing the students is seeing the light in their eyes once they find a special moment with the audience.
“Once they get the laugh, once they have that moment where they connect with the audience. It’s magical,” he says.
Within the department, there’s a level of excellence that everyone holds standard to, McCarthy adds.
“It causes us all to challenge ourselves and challenge each other to be not only the best actors we can be, but the best people we can be,” she says.
However, the challenges aren’t only limited to the actors in the department.
“I think one of the things that’s so awesome about our department is that there are so many things for different people to do as well,” McCarthy says. “Even if you’re not an actor, you can still be a part of the (technical crew), you can still help with ushering. There’s always a way you can get involved and be a part of such an awesome and wonderful community. I love that.”
Senior Nick Wilcox first joined the department as a “techie” when he was a freshman at WHS, because he could see how welcoming and close the people in the program were.
Now, with “Annie Get Your Gun,” Wilcox will take on a leadership role, acting as head tech for the first time. He says he’ll assign jobs to all of his technical students and then float around the stage to help with everything from ushering people into the theater to managing the stage.
Wilcox has worked on seven plays during his time at WHS, and says it’s the family that’s been created within the department that keeps him coming back.
“We’re just all really close and have a great bond with each other,” Wilcox says. “We fight like we’re family and we get along like family and we know everything about each other.”
Wilcox adds that the most rewarding aspect of being a part of the musical, aside from getting to be a part of something so cool and working with great people, is knowing that he plays an important role in the production.
The tech crew is responsible for all of the sets, props, lights and sounds.
The opportunity to be backstage with the tech crew is a different feeling, he says. Without tech, the play wouldn’t be able to go on, and that responsibility gives him a feeling of importance.
Gregerson says he loved being a high school drama student and hopes his enthusiasm carries over to his students.
“I’ve had people come up to me in their 70s or 80s and talk about the shows they did in high school, that stays with people,” he says.
The department has been performing more modern musicals in recent years, and wanted to return to a more classic performance this year.
“Annie Get Your Gun,” with its great songs and strong female roles was a perfect fit for the drama group, Gregerson says: “We’ve got a female keeping up with the boys and beating the boys.”
Plus, there will be a twist at the end of the play that is not in the original.
“We’ve got a group that really doesn’t hold back,” Gregerson says. “They’re attacking this with fervor, and I think that’s really important for this show. All the portrayals are big and all the characters are larger than life.”