Theater, choir students get ready to entertain

Villages High School students Josie McDonald, left, Maggee Wellman, Sydney Rich and Emily Veri rehearse a scene from “Edgar Allan Poe House” at The Villages High School.

Adding even more variety to The Villages’ entertainment landscape, upcoming performances by The Villages High School theater and choir students will cover everything from horror to patriotism and the holidays. Events include the Fall Choir Concert, featuring patriotic songs; “Edgar Allan Poe House” where students will act out two of Poe’s most famous short storie; a holiday performance at Disney; and two local holiday concerts. “There are many opportunities to see us in different ways, and I think there is something for everyone this year,” choir director Mark Lehnowsky said. “And I think they’re going to be really fun and really special in their own ways. And we would love your support.” Lehnowsky said the theater and choir students are as committed to their shows as professional groups.

“The students each put in hundreds of hours in a school year to do these performances,” he said. “Even the choir, which doesn’t have outside-of-school rehearsal, often will put in 100 to 200 of outside (of school hours).”

Junior Emily Veri hopes local residents will attend the shows and appreciate that hard work.

“This is really hard stuff and I feel like we should be recognized for it,” Veri said.

Those hundreds of hours include writing more than 75 pages of theatrical adaptations and learning two dozen pieces of music, rehearsing them in and out of school and additional work behind the scenes. 

The Fall Choir Concert will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center. It has a classic Americana theme, and many of the songs will be performed again during Veterans Day celebrations at The Villages High School.

“These are great students, really great students,” Lehnowsky said. “They work hard and they do great things. They have committed to creating some really interesting — a really unique and really enjoyable evening for you.”

The “Edgar Allan Poe House” shows will start at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at VHS. Students will act out “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Lehnowsky, who leads both the choral and music theater classes at VHS, is excited to bring this show to the community. 

“We’ve created our own theatrical adaptions,” Lehnowsky said. “We are also doing the story of Poe’s life and other tales that may have been inspired by him or myths and legends where we could put a Poe-esque spin on the stories.”

This includes adaptations of “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, alongside the myths of Bloody Mary and La Llorona.

Senior Josie McDonald is performing in “The Pit and the Pendulum.” 

“I love acting and I love music — it’s just always been a really big part of my life,” McDonald said. “And the theater program here is just amazing.” 

McDonald said she has enjoyed learning about and exploring the acting styles that will be presented in the show.

“There is a lot of work going into it,” McDonald said. “I think it’s kind of eerie, and I think that’s really cool and people will enjoy that. I think it’s very unique. You don’t see this going on at most high schools.”

Veri also is ready for her performance in “The Pit and the Pendulum.” 

“It’s good because this is a type of acting I’ve never done before,” she said. “And it’s really fun to expand on what I’ve been doing.”

Tickets are $15 and up for both performances and can be purchased at thevillagesentertainment.com. Proceeds from ticket sales support the school’s performing arts programs. 

“I just think you’re not going to regret seeing it if you come,” McDonald said.

Following those performances, the choir will perform at Disney’s Candlelight Processional on Nov. 29 and Dec. 2 as a part of the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays at Walt Disney World Resort. 

The group also will perform a Winter Choral Gala at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at New Covenant United Methodist Church. Tickets start at $35 and can be found at the villagesentertainment.com.

The gala will feature a hired string quartet and a catered meal along with the vocal talents of VHS students performing holiday music. 

After that they will perform a joint concert with the Village Voices Chorus at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at North Lake Presbyterian Church in Lady Lake. Tickets go on sale Friday at thevillagevoiceschorus.org.

Both the choir and theater students will return in the spring with even more performances and competitions. 

Lehnowsky said residents won’t be disappointed by any of the performances. 

“It would be wonderful for them if you could come and support them and show them that their hard work is appreciated,” he said. “Come support a new generation that is willing, capable, and currently rising to the challenges before them. Come and see them and show them that you support what they are about.” 

Staff writer Garrett Shiflet can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5367, or garrett.shiflet@thevillagesmedia.com.