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Next Stage’s next show

By Janelle Fisher

Arts & Entertainment Editor

DE PERE — The curtain will rise next weekend at St. Norbert College’s Walter Theatre, officially kicking off Next Stage’s production of Brigadoon.

Next Stage, a program which started in 2015, brings together performers, musicians and crew members from high schools all throughout northeast Wisconsin.

This year’s cast and crew join the ranks of more than 125 students from 21 high schools who have participated in Next Stage shows — with some returning for multiple years.

For Timothy Huber, Taylor Vanroy, Joey Thuecks and Bella Frank, this show will be their second production with Next Stage, as the four recent high school graduates also participated in the 2022 production of Anastasia.

To be a part of a Next Stage show, students must go through a rigorous audition process.

“They all have to, at least for the cast and the pit orchestra, go through an audition,” Teresa Schmidt, co-director of Brigadoon, said. “This is competitive, so they’ve all had to take that leap as far as, ‘Am I going to audition?’ A lot of people do, and they feel it’s worth it.”

For some members of this year’s cast, the motivation to take that leap came from attending a Next Stage show or talking to people who had participated in the past.

“My friend Ryan, who graduated from Pulaski the year before me, was in it,” Huber, who just graduated from Pulaski High School, said. “I went and just fell in love with it and in my mind, I was like ‘I’m going to audition for this next year.”

“I had someone from my school who was in Spongebob, and I didn’t get to see it, but then I was at the Center Stage Awards before Anastasia and a lot of people there were talking about it so I decided to audition for it,” Thuecks, a 2023 graduate of Luxemburg-Casco High School, said.

For others, the motivation to audition for Next Stage stemmed from looking for opportunities to perform over the summer.

“I searched for summer opportunities and I really just wanted to branch out,” Vanroy, who just graduated from Green Bay Preble High School, said. “And then in the next couple of days, I saw a poster for Anastasia in my choir room and I was like ‘This seems like a good opportunity.’”

“I hadn’t really heard of Next Stage before, until I saw something online for Anastasia,” Frank, a 2023 graduate of Bay Port High School, said. “That’s when I was like, ‘Sure, why not?’”

Regardless of how they came to Next Stage, Huber, Vanroy, Thuecks and Frank said the experience they had in their first year made it an easy choice to audition for a second show.

“For me, it was all about being challenged,” Vanroy said. “There’s so many new opportunities and you learn so fast. It’s so different to meet new people from different schools.”

“I really enjoyed the experience, and it made me really think about what I wanted to do when I was older,” Thuecks said. “The level of professionalism while we’re performing in the show and rehearsing, it’s just spectacular.”

“I came back because of the experience,” Frank said. “It’s such a great educational and professional experience that we get to go through. It’s all very fast-paced and I think that is really valuable to learn.”

In addition to the experience of participating in Anastasia, Huber noted that the choice of Brigadoon as this year’s show served as extra motivation to come back, since it’s different than the types of shows many high schools in the area tend to pick.

“The choice of the show this year intrigued me,” Huber said. “For my school in particular, we haven’t done very many shows that go before the ‘80s or ‘90s, so doing this older show gives me some experience of a different time period and a different style.”

Brigadoon follows the story of New Yorker Tommy Albright, as he unexpectedly arrives at the mysterious Scottish Highland village of Brigadoon, which only appears for one day every 100 years and falls in love with Fiona, a beautiful villager, and has to decide whether to return to his old life or stay in Brigadoon.

Huber plays the role of Andrew MacLaren.

“He is the father of Fiona, the leading lady of the show,” Huber said. “It’s a smaller role than what I’m used to back home, and it was a really nice experience to work with a character with less text associated with it and try to fill in the blanks and fill in his personality.”

Thuecks takes on the role of Mr. Lundie.

“He’s the school master,” Thuecks said. “He’s like the leader of what the miracle of Brigadoon is and he explains it to the characters and how important the life that they have is.”

Both Vanroy and Frank are a part of the Scottish ensemble.

“I’m in the Scottish ensemble, which is really fun,” Vanroy said. “You get to do all the really intricate dances.”

“It’s really fun to get the experience of being in an ensemble,” Frank said. At my high school, I was a lead a lot of the time, so getting to come here and have a different experience is really, really cool.”

When asked what advice they would give to students thinking about auditioning for a Next Stage show, Huber, Vanro, Thuecks and Frank responded with a resounding, “Do it.”

Huber said, “If you have any ounce of passion or love for theater, just go for it.”

“Even if you’re not sure about doing it, you’ll learn so many different things,” Vanroy said. “You get something out of it, for sure.”

“I’ve met my chosen family here, and I just love everyone so much,” Thuecks said. “Being able to just communicate with people who are so passionate about the thing that I’m also passionate about is such an amazing experience.”

“Getting to do a show at this high caliber of production is so fun,” Frank said. “Being involved in any way is so educational and professional and it’s a really great experience.”

The experiences Next Stage provides not only keeps students coming back to participate in future shows, but also prepares them for their future education and careers.

Huber, Thuecks and Frank will all attend UW-Stevens Point in the fall for musical theater and Vanroy will study musical theater at UW-Milwaukee. All four said they have hopes of continuing to perform on stage in some capacity once their time with Next Stage comes to a close.

“I think Broadway is not necessarily the end goal, but it’s the dream to go to New York and be in a show and make a mark on the world,” Huber said. “As far as dream shows, I’d love to do anything by Stephen Sondheim… All of those shows mean something to me and I’d love to be in them someday.”

“I agree with Tim — Broadway things and continuing to learn all the different types and genres of shows,” Vanroy said. “For dream stuff, maybe Phantom of the Opera or different, more classical soprano-type things.”

“I think for a lot of theater kids, Broadway is the end goal — it’s like a dream,” Thuecks said. “But for me, being in any production is just such a good, joyful experience… Sondheim’s Into the Woods is probably my favorite show and I would love to be in it someday.”

“For me, just performing is so much fun and I’ve got such a passion for it,” Frank said. “So as long as I’m doing that, I think that makes me happy and I know that it has an impact on other people’s lives. That’s one of the things that keeps me going with this, too. My end goal is to make people happy.”

That passion for performing is something that the cast says really shines through in Brigadoon.

“I think people should come and see the love and joy that we all have for performing, because of a lot of the people that come back to it are the really passionate people from their respective schools,” Thuecks said. “Being able to watch people enjoy and love their craft is an amazing experience.”

“Getting to see all of the passion that’s put into it — because everyone who does this is very involved and hands-on — is incredible,” Frank said. “The passion that everyone puts into it is really awesome.”

Beyond the passion the students put into it, Huber and Vanroy said the show itself offers musical arrangements attendees won’t want to miss.

“I think a lot of the choral music is really something to behold,” Huber said. “A lot of shows these days have intricate ensembles and intricate choral music, but this is just on a whole beautiful, different level.”

“The wedding sequence shows amazing vocal parts and the instrumental is crazy,” Vanroy said. “It just adds to where the emotions are.”

You can see Brigadoon and the hard work and passion put into it by the Next Stage students Aug. 10-13 at St. Norbert College’s Walter Theatre.

Tickets and more information about the show and Next Stage program can be found at snc.edu/nextstage.

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