Highland High School to stage “Schoolhouse Rock Live!”

Highland High School  presents the musical "Schoolhouse Rock, Live," which will be performed on Feb. 22-23. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Highland High School presents the musical “Schoolhouse Rock, Live,” which will be performed on Feb. 22-23. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The sweet sounds of well-loved educational music will soon burst forth from the stage at Highland High School, when students star in a production of “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” this weekend.

Lynda Keech, the director of the musical, said her students had made her proud for the progress they’d made during rehearsals — which recent winter storms have made a little hard to keep on schedule. There have also been added pressures to deliver quickly.

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“The kids are doing a really great job. It’s been a lot of fun,” said Keech, who is also a choir teacher in Highland. “It’s been the shortest amount of time that I have rehearsed for a show, because I got asked to do something in March that conflicted with the snow date — so we had to change the date. But the kids have risen to the occasion.”

The show features nearly 20 of the super-catchy songs originally featured on the “Schoolhouse Rock!” animated shorts, which ran interstitially between ABC’s Saturday morning cartoons from 1973 until 2000.

While firmly a product of the funky, funky 1970s, the “Schoolhouse Rock!” cartoons have had a long shelf-life, enduring as quick video lessons in classrooms throughout the country. Teaching — and how an instructor relates to a classroom — is one of the driving forces of the narrative of the stage version. Tom, the main character, is dreadfully worried about his first day as a new teacher. As he wrestles with his anxiety, the songs emerge as a sudden inspiration.

“They come through as all of the different ways he can teach children different things. So adverbs, adjectives, nouns — all the kind of stuff that comes from those songs get connected to a story in that manner,” she said.

Parents and kids should recognize lots of favorites like “Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction.”

Highland high schoolers have taken to the fun and cartoonish vibe of the production, often eager to add theatrical flair to their roles.

Kids in high school now could conceivably be too young to have seen or know about the Watergate-era “Schoolhouse Rock!” — the series turns 40 this year. While a revival of the cartoons brought them back on the air in the 1990s, current high school students were just babies then. However, Keech noted that the students did know the tunes.

“I don’t know how or why they do, but they do,” the director said, adding that the Internet might be to blame. “Every single song in the show is on YouTube with the original cartoons. So that’s been a great thing.”

“Schoolhouse Rock Live!” will run on Friday and Saturday night at the high school, and the curtain goes up at 7 p.m. Tickets for the show are available at the door. A snow date is set up for Sunday, with curtain time at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for adults. Students and senior citizens pay at a reduced $10 rate.

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