High school spring theater time in Howard County

The spring musical season is in full swing at area high schools starting on March 1.

Literally taking off swinging is Oakland Mill’s production of “Tarzan.”

The story of a young boy raised by apes, “Tarzan” features a cast of 33 students — most of them as animal characters — and a crew of eight students.

From the start, there have been numerous challenges for both the cast and Samantha Rice, director and the theater teacher at Oakland. The vocal director had to step down; one of the actresses who played Jane left and there was no one available to be the director for the pit orchestra. Recorded music is being used for the first time.

“The hardest thing is getting dialogue in before the music starts,” Rice said. “The benefit is it is always the same tempo and timing.”

This is only Rice’s second production at Oakland, and it is her first musical.

“There are a lot of elements that have to come together,” Rice said. “Props were delivered. Mikes put in place. The set formed. We need to get used to it.”

For the veteran cast members, Rice is their third director.

“There was no musical last year,” said Felicia Howard, a senior, who plays Kala, Tarzan’s gorilla mother, adding that the school had a musical review since the theater teacher left halfway through the school year.

“It was depressing,” said Jensen Terry, a sophomore, who has the role of Tarzan. “We had directors we loved and adored and they would leave.”

Originally an understudy for the role of Jane, Faith Highland, a freshman, stepped into the role permanently when one of the originally cast members quit. A double-cast role, Highland will perform as Jane at half of the performances and Rachel Perez will play Jane at the other productions.

“It’s a huge honor to be a freshman in such a great show with all these wonderful people,” Highland, 15, said, who, like many in the cast, has another job in the production.

“I do the makeup,” Highland said. “It is my creative outlet.”

Howard helped create the costumes and does most of the mending when they tear.

“The nice thing about theater is you do a little bit of everything,” she said.

With an extensive background in singing, Howard also helped coach the cast with the vocal pieces until a new vocal director was found.

“Felicia helped them a lot,” Rice said.

Learning how to move like a gorilla was challenging, according to Howard and Terry, who as Tarzan, has to look like a human trying to move like a gorilla.

“I did a lot of studying to see how apes moved,” Terry said. “I can’t use my palms and my arms swing out more. Apes are more compact and animal like.”

“We do a lot of side-to-side and shuffling,” Howard said. “A lot of knuckle work, too.”

“They have worked really hard,” said Jennifer Frederick, an Oakland Mills alumni who is the choreographer for the show.

“It has been one of my favorites to choreograph,” said Frederick, of her 10th show with the school. “For the leopards, I watched my cats a lot. They leap a lot, stalk and are very enlongated.”

Despite the many issues the production has faced, Terry says it has been a “great experience.”

“It makes you an all around better person,” Terry said. “We’re like a family.”

Oakland Mills High School, 9410 Kilimanjaro Road, Columbia,presents “Tarzan” on March 1-3 at 7 p.m.,and March 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12; $8 for ages 12 and under. 410-313-6945

High School Productions:

March 1-3:

Atholton : “The Addams Family,” 410-313-7065

Glenelg: “Young Frankenstein,” 410-313-5528

Hammond: “The Wedding Singer,” 410-313-7615

Howard: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” 410-313-2867

River Hill: “Pippin,” 410-313-7120

March 8-10:

Wilde Lake: “Mary Poppins,” 410-313-6965

March 17-18

Mt. Hebron: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” 410-313-2880,

March 22-25:

Centennial: “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” 410-313-2856

Long Reach: “Mary Poppins,” 410-313-7117

Marriotts Ridge: “The Drowsy Chaperone,” 410-313-5568

Reservoir: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” 410-888-8850

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