Washougal students celebrate live theater’s return

Students will present ‘All Together Now!’ musical this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 12-13

Doug Flanagan/Post-Record Washougal High School student Claire Zakovics (front left) sings a song, accompanied by Sarah Vandehey (back left), Robert Stevens (back right) and choir teacher MaKenna Clendenen during a rehearsal session for the Washougal School District's upcoming musical production "All Together Now!" at Washougal High School on Nov. 5.

Doug Flanagan/Post-Record Washougal High School students Daisha Paz-Mendoza and Trinatee Brajevich sing during a rehearsal session for the Washougal School District's upcoming musical production "All Together Now!" at Washougal High School on Nov. 5.

Washougal High School student Daria Eremenko leads a group of performers during a rehearsal session for the Washougal School District's upcoming musical production "All Together Now!" at Washougal High School on Nov. 5, 2021.

Washougal High School drama teacher Kelly Gregersen (right) talks to students during a rehearsal for the Washougal School District's upcoming musical production of "All Together Now!" at Washougal High School on Nov. 5, 2021. (Photos by Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Washougal School District’s music and theater students are taking advantage of a unique opportunity to welcome the performing arts back to a worldwide stage.

The district will present Music Theater International’s (MTI) “All Together Now! A Global Event Celebrating Local Theater,” at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, at Washougal High School’s Washburn Theater. Tickets cost $5 and will be available for purchase at the door.

MTI, a New York City-based theatrical licensing agency, is offering the production to theaters around the world free of charge and hopes that it serves not only as a fundraiser, but a way of celebrating the return of live theater after more than a year of pandemic-related shutdowns.

“From the musical choices to a video piece that runs in the middle, this is all really about where we’ve been and looking forward,” Washougal High drama teacher Kelly Gregersen said. “A lot of the pieces talk about hope, taking stock of moments, moving forward and opening our hearts again — all of the things that the pandemic has made tough (to do).”

More than 2,500 organizations from all 50 states and 40 countries and territories have signed up to participate in the event, which will present more than 5,500 individual performances to be seen by more than 1 million audience members from Nov. 12-15, according to a news release.

“The excitement for ‘All Together Now!’ among our customers is growing by the day,” MTI Worldwide president and chief executive officer Drew Cohen stated in the news release. “Our theater industry colleagues have also been incredibly supportive, and we are thrilled to have a growing roster of partners contributing from so many disciplines within the professional theatre community. This is truly a collaborative effort, and we are all extremely excited that any and every type of theatre from schools to the pros has the opportunity to produce MTI’s ‘All Together Now!’ in their communities.”

The production will feature about 75 student performers from every Washougal school, as well as a solo performance by district superintendent Mary Templeton.

“With this being a global event, I wanted to do it very differently from our traditional shows,” Gregersen said. “At the high school, we were lucky enough to do one live show last year, but a lot of the schools in the district have not performed since we went out for COVID. For several of the schools, this is the first time those kids have gotten to perform in almost two years. All of the music teachers in the district have been great. They are my ‘heroes of the show’ because they’ve all jumped into this and just taken it on.”

“All Together Now!” features songs and scenes from MTI’s catalogue, which includes titles such as “Into the Woods,” “Songs for a New World,” “Les Mis?rables” and “Guys and Dolls.” MTI designed the production to include 15 songs with “multiple options for each slot so theatres have flexibility with how they present the show,” John Prignano, MTI’s chief operating officer and director of education and development, said in the news release.

“Working with all of the musical (teachers) in the district, we figured out who wanted what and what songs in each slot we were going to choose, and the show slowly took form,” Gregersen said. “The way we chose it, it ended up with kind of a nice mix. There will be a few songs that most people don’t know and there will be songs that everybody knows. It’s a little closer to a concert, in some ways, than a traditional musical, but it’s sure going to be a lot of fun.”

The students are enjoying the process of putting the production together, even though “they’re a little overwhelmed,” according to Gregersen.

“They’re kind of building up to the energy that this all takes,” Gregersen said. “They’re a little shyer right now because they haven’t been singing a lot in the last couple of years, except maybe in their shower or in front of their families. Even though we did a play last year, it was a play. This group has to sing together, listen to each other, work together, dance together. It’s been really fun to watch the kids come back to the idea of, ‘How do I actually work with other people and be in space with other people?’ We’re building that back up, and I think they’re doing really well. It’s definitely been a stretch for a lot of them, but I think they’re having a good time.”