PCHS production of ‘Little Women’ garners big honors
Musical nominated for eight statewide awards
April 25, 2017
Rick Kimball faced a dilemma last fall when casting issues forced him to alter course about seven weeks before Park City High School was set to premiere a musical performance of "Jekyll & Hyde."
He had already done the blocking for the play, and students had already auditioned for their roles. But Kimball, in his first year as a drama teacher at the school, made a difficult and risky decision: They would perform "Little Women" instead.
Kimball was nervous about making such a big change so late. It turns out he had no reason to be.
The school's production of "Little Women" garnered eight nominations in the prestigious Utah High School Musical Theater Awards, which were announced late last month. The categories are: Best Musical, Best Actress (Alexa Wilcox), Best Supporting Actress (Eileen Riley), Best Director, Best Lighting Design, Best Set Design, Best Technical Crew and Best Orchestra. Several students will perform songs from the play at an awards show in Salt Lake City on May 13.
Kimball, whose productions at other schools have earned acclaim, called the awards Utah's Tonys and said earning that many nominations is unheard of for a school the size of PCHS. The recognition is a testament to the students who worked so hard to make the musical a success.
"When I heard that we got nominated for eight, I was just floored," he said. "We're a small program that's just trying to get up and going, so I was floored.
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"I'm really excited that the students are getting this type of validation because we have such a talented student body here," he added. "The greatest thing is that we're going to be able to show at that performance that Park City High School has a premier theater department."
Calie Gallup, who played the supporting role of Beth, said it was clear to her the production was something special because of how intently everyone focused on getting their parts just right. Receiving the eight nominations made all of the hard work worth it. After the experience, she intends to perform in every school play she can until she graduates.
"It's super amazing that we could do this well," she said. "Since we're such a small school, we didn't expect to be nominated, so it's amazing that we were put so high."
Tori Kenton, who also played a supporting role, echoed that sentiment and said being part of the play was something she'll never forget.
"We really got into the characters, and it meant a lot to me that we all could spend that much time together," she said. "I really got close with people that I didn't really know at all before the play. It was just a really great experience."
Kimball, who has taught theater at large high schools in Utah and at Salt Lake Community College, said every student who was involved in the production should feel honored by the nominations because all of them contributed in a meaningful way. Despite only having seven weeks to prepare the musical, he knew early on that it would be better than a typical high school production.
"I just realized everyone's commitment level to both the music end of it and the acting side of it were really something special," he said. "I knew that we had something special. As a director, you see it every day, so you're like, 'This is good.' But people were coming in with fresh eyes and going, 'OK, this is really good, actually.'"
He is hopeful the recognition proves to students like Wilcox — who will get to perform in New York City if she wins Best Actress — and Riley that they have a future in theater if they want to pursue it. He's also optimistic it will show other students how rewarding participating in high school plays can be.
"At our school, I think there's a lot of students on the bubble about whether they should do theater or not and if it's worthwhile," he said. "This says clearly that it is worthwhile. It's like, 'Come right in and you can be part of something great.'"
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