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Students are eager to perform their first live musical since the start of the pandemic.

COURTESY PHOTO: KELLIE MCCARTY  - Mitch Mahoney (left), played by alumni Jessica Cabrera, looks on as some of the spellers awaiting their next turn. 
With only a few days left before opening night of Centennial High School's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," the stress of the impending performance was felt throughout the Thursday evening rehearsal at the school's theater.

Despite all the work still needed to be done, the folks involved in this year's musical say they wouldn't change a single thing.

"Musical theater has been at the heart of our (theater) program," said Centennial's theater arts director, Kellie McCarty. "It has just always been a part of the Centennial High School experience. When you think of Centennial theater, you think of our great musical productions."

The return of musicals has meant even more to the students, many of whom haven't participated in a high school musical since their freshman year, if at all.

Chrissa Dybwad, a junior who is working on set design, said being able to work on this year's production has been a nice way to hone in on some construction skills.

"When I decided to join, it really became one of the best decisions I made in high school," Dybwad said. "I just wished I joined my freshman year; that is my only regret." PMG PHOTO: ANGEL ROSAS  - Chrissa Dybwad was feverishly painting a piece of the set during an after-school rehearsal.

Lead actor Mary Dejay said coming back to live theater has been a liberating experience for her. "It means a lot to be back," Dejay said. "I feel like this is one of the only ways I get to express myself. Usually, I am quiet and reserved, but when I am on stage, I can be someone else."

For senior Sean Bass, the time away from theater was a difficult period. "This is the first musical we have done since my freshman year," Bass said. "In my sophomore year were supposed to do 'Annie' but then a month before we were supposed to start rehearsals, COVID hit."

Despite the loss of time and added stress of now being one of the senior students in charge, Bass said he is just happy to be part of the amazing production.

"Being back and being able to talk to people with the same interest, it feels like I am back home, honestly," Bass said. "It almost feels like everything is just the way we left it."

McCarty acknowledged online theater classes would never replace the thrill of actually acting in-person. "We tried to continue and keep that sense of community virtually, but it was definitely a challenge," she said. "We lost many students from the program, just because they didn't have the daily, in-person connection."

However, the Centennial High School has persevered, and on Thursday, May 5, the curtain will rise on another production.

The theater will have seven shows at 7 p.m. on May 5, 6, 7, 12, and 13. Performances at 2 and 7 p.m. will take place Saturday, May 14.

Tickets are reserved and are $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. For ticket info call 503-762-7511. Purchase tickets by visiting this {obj:62295:website} .

Children under five years old will only be asked to pay if they will be sitting in their own seat. The show is rated PG but is recommended for middle school age children or older.

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