MONTEREY — The Highland Drama Club at Highland County Public Schools is staging one of its largest productions — the play “It Happened on Route 66” by Todd Wallinger.
The cast and crew include 18 actors, two understudies, and more students helpings with hair and makeup, costume design, and a backstage assistant director.
Many students juggle play practice with baseball, softball, and track practices and games, making understudies more critical for this production.
“We’ve learned time management,” said Melody Moats, English teacher and drama club sponsor. “I think we’ve learned a lot from each other.”
Abbey Cabral is one of the understudies who has filled in for every actor during practice. This is her first time working in theater. “She was willing to fill in and be everybody,” Moats said.
“I really enjoy being an understudy because I get to explore everybody’s parts,” Cabral said. “I really enjoy seeing different people’s points of view.”
Owen Honaker is also a first-time drama club member and has struggled to balance learning his lines with his sports commitments. But with the performance less than two weeks away, Honaker buckled down to learn them. “I’m getting pretty fluent in saying them,” he said.
The play is a comedy with a bit of romance thrown in.
“It’s a funny play,” said Savannah Cabral. “There are jokes thrown in here and there.”
“We have a runaway Hollywood actress, running from romance,” Moats explained. “She left her fiance at the altar.”
Eleanor White plays Lovey Lamour, the actress who fled her wedding from Johnny Jerome, played by Honaker. Lamour lands in Cookie’s Diner, trying to hide her identity as the new waitress. “She’s a temperamental movie star,” White said. “I have to be fancy.”
White said learning diner lingo for her lines was the best part. “Eggs are ‘crackle berries.’ Two poached eggs on toast are ‘Adam and Eve on a Raft’ and ‘Burn the British’ is a toasted English muffin.”
Savannah Cabral plays a female mechanic known in town for her unusual pets, including a cockroach and a mouse. While repairing Lamour’s car, she disassembles the parts and loses a vital piece, keeping Lamour in town longer.
Lamour finds it hard to disguise her identity from Sally, a waitress played by Mackenzie Lambert, and Twila, a reporter played by Adelaide Baxter.
“I’m a nosey reporter,” Baxter said. “The mission is to find Lovey and bring Johnny to her so they can get back together.”
Lovey and Johnny are not the only pair with romantic woes. Sally has a bit of drama with her fake fiancé, Rosco, too.
“There’s a lot of nonsense,” Lambert said.
Karl Sax plays Rosco, who said learning his lines and how to act was a challenge.
“They had to work on how they would show affection,” Moats said. “We worked around that into a really cute scene where they shake hands.”
Not everyone is in it for love. Lamour’s manager, Maxine, played by Meckenzie Lambert, is looking out for herself. “I care very much about money,” Lambert said of her character. “I get to say some of the funny lines.”
Charlotte Richardson plays Deloras, a broke mother eating lunch at the diner with her daughter. This is her first play, and she said curiosity led her to try it out. She also helped paint the iconic jukebox for the set.
Mikhail Franklin is another first-timer who played traveling salesperson, Freddie. “I’ve seen two of the plays here, and they looked like fun,” Franklin said.
Jack Herold is a veteran on the stage who brings fun to all his roles. He plays Cookie, the diner owner and chef, who says getting to yell is his favorite part. He enjoys playing Oliver Summers, who plays Otis. “I love scaring him because he never sees it coming,” Herold said, adding that he has scared Summers at least five times during practice. “He usually jumps out of this chair.”
Cash Chambers returns to the stage in a small role due to his other commitments. Chambers, who hosts a show on Allegheny Mountain Radio, plays an up-and-coming musician in the 1950s-period production.
Chambers and Moats didn’t want to divulge the identity of the famous rock-n-roll star ahead of time.
“He gives some clues from his lines,” Moats said before the character revealed his name.
“I think people will recognize me immediately,” Chambers said. “I think it’s cool that I’m playing somebody famous.”
See if you can spot the famous singer, find out how Lovey Lamour’s romance ends, and see everything that happened on Route 66 at 7 p.m. on May 12 in the school cafeteria. Admission is by freewill donation.