Harding brings homecoming musical to life

By Kayla Baugh Published October 15, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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This year’s Harding Homecoming musical’s cast members Max Ross, from left, Allie Scott and Jason Lightfoot are gearing up to perform Annie Get Your Gun on Oct. 20 and 21 at Harding University in Searcy.

— Unicycle riders, jugglers and Irish dancers are just a few of the performers the audience will see in this year’s homecoming musical.

Harding University in Searcy will present the classic Annie Get Your Gun on Oct. 20 and 21 in Benson Auditorium on campus.

Admission is $15 to $18, depending on seat location.

Britton Lynn, associate professor of theater at Harding, said he looks forward to sharing the musical with the community.

“This score is one of the strongest scores in American musical theater. It is written by Irving Berlin, the writer of a lot of popular songs. ‘White Christmas’ is probably his most famous song,” Lynn said.

Broadway classics such as “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” and “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” will be performed in the musical, he said.

Lynn said the plot centers around Annie, a talented marksman.

“She is asked to join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and falls in love with the star of the show — Frank Butler. Here’s the problem — she’s better than he is. So the two of them have to figure out if they can be in a relationship when Annie is the one who is going to get all of the fame and glory,” he explained.

Lynn said 103 people are bringing the musical to life — 42 cast members, 40 members of the technical crew and 21 orchestra members — most of whom are students.

The show is acted out, sung, lit up, danced and managed by students, he said, all with an impressive set of talents.

This year’s production is also unique because two freshmen are cast in the leading roles, Lynn said.

“We originally did not set out to cast two freshmen — as a matter of fact, we typically only cast freshmen in ensemble and supporting roles,” he said. “Part of that has to do with our casting calendar, but part of it has to do with the fact that the homecoming musical is a pretty large-scale show, and it opens approximately eight weeks into the fall semester.”

Lynn said the actors in the lead roles, Max Ross and Allie Scott, have done a remarkable job preparing for the show while also integrating into the community at Harding.

“We had a great deal of talent already on campus, but there was something unique vocally and physically about Max and Allie that just seemed right for these specific parts,” he said.

The annual homecoming musical is important because it ties alumni to the university, he said, and people from all over the world return to Harding for homecoming each year.

“The theater department is excited that the university schedules the show to be one of the large events during homecoming weekend — we will have an audience of approximately 5,000 people see our work in that one weekend. Not many theater departments in the country can claim those attendance numbers— especially in one weekend’s worth of shows,” he said.

Cindee Stockstill, producer of the Theatre at Harding, said homecoming allows current students to connect with alumni.

Stockstill said Lynn is directing the homecoming musical for the first time this year, and the department has a new ticketing system, as well as a new public relations and marketing team.

“All of these new elements create opportunities for growth and improvement to an already good process,” she said.

The musical is unique because it’s a revival of a classic, she said.

Lynn brings enthusiasm and excitement to his first homecoming musical, she said, and he’s having a great time working with the cast, production team and crew.

“Mr. Lynn’s design concept for this production is a combination of Wild West show, a circus and Dixie Stampede. It’s a fun combination,” she said.

Lynn said the connections made at Harding make it a special place to be.

“On this show, we have graphic designers, electricians, carpenters, dancers, singers, bassoon players, faculty, staff, students, Searcy residents and more — all coming together to create one specific event,” Lynn said. “That synergy that is created when so many differences come together to create one unified event is truly unique.

“I’m really proud of the cast and crew for the hard work, focus and dedication they are demonstrating right now.”

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.