Teens swap roles, and memories, as they head to theatrical showcase

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Hunter Golder, swapping characters for the night, stepped into the role of his onstage twin sister and strutted across the Dover Area High School stage during a rehearsal of "High School Musical."

“Me and Sharpay have been friends for a long time,” the 18-year-old Golder said, referring to the lead character. And Golder feels a kinship with Kylie Snelbaker, the actor he filled in for, too. Even though Snelbaker was away at a basketball game, Golder said they're mentally linked.

“I have met so many friends throughout being in theater," Golder said, "and it’s really helped me become closer with different people I would have never met before.”

Their connection exemplifies the lesson Dover's play director and English teacher Jamie Brandstadter wants her actors to take away from the experience as the production pairs students and choreographers from both Dover Area and West York high schools, bringing together two distinct groups of theater kids together as one.

Each school will do its own performance of the musical, and at the end of April, the students will be performing for Encore, a countywide theatrical showcase with a $25,000 scholarship award.

“It’s not a competition,” Brandstadter said, explaining how the idea of the schools' partnership came about. “Let’s collaborate.”

This also happens to be the play's message: "We’re all in this together." 

“It’s really awesome that we’re all in this together,” Brandstadter said, as the two groups practiced a big number together.

This is Golder’s second musical, but Golder said it was a blast having to step into Sharpay's role for a sassy rendition of "Stick to the Status Quo," a cheeky ode to high school conformity. The rehearsal featured an additional dimension of irony given Golder's stepping out of his own role, Ryan, to play Sharpay.

“It really serves to build community with the people in both the theater department and the music department,” Golder said.

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West York senior Caleigh Brumbaugh, who plays Ms. Darbus in her school's production, said this collaboration was interesting and she thinks it could be “something cool to look forward to in the future.”

“It builds a lot of connections with a school district that I am not familiar with,” she said. 

She is excited about her role. 

Dover and West York high school students practicing parts of their upcoming musical High School Musical in Dover on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

“I mean, it’s my last year and I got a pretty big role,” she said. 

The senior's role is a high school drama teacher, which fits Brunbaugh well. 

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“I’m dramatic and out there,” she said, before explaining her character is very musical and theatrical, as well. 

Adam Noel, another West York senior, was excited to have the role of Troy, the lead. 

“This is my first year doing the musical,” he said. “I decided to go for it.”

Dover and West York high school students practicing parts of their upcoming musical High School Musical in Dover on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

In previous years, he watched his friends have fun performing while he played his saxophone in the pit with the other musicians. This year he wanted it to be different — he wanted to be on stage. 

West York play director Jolene Kingston said the teens will be encouraged to check out other schools’ musical programs. Brandstadter said there was one year when Central York High School students went to almost every single show they could. 

“It is cool for them to support each other,” she said. 

Kingston said West York’s performance is a week before Dover’s, but they are going to try and have performers from each school attend the other's. 

“We might have them pop up in the aisles and do this choreography during the show,” she said.

And wrapped up in all of this is a scholarship program, Encore, that helps promote collaboration between York County school districts. 

Kingston said Encore is an opportunity for the high schools to show off for each other. 

Dover and West York high school students practicing parts of their upcoming musical High School Musical in Dover on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

“It’s not about competing as much as it's about celebrating all of the talent throughout York County,” she said, adding it’s also about celebrating all of the hard work the performers put in. 

The high schools will gather to showcase their talents with some songs from their performances. Kingston said that the audience is usually composed of performers and people who performed in the past, love performances or know someone in a program. 

Kingston said, “Oftentimes, kids in the arts don’t have the access to the athletic-type opportunities.” 

This scholarship gives them a chance at one. This year, there will be $25,000 in scholarships awarded. 

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The shows: Here's the lineup for high school musicals in York County this spring:

  • Northeastern’s play “Anything Goes” will be 7 p.m. Feb. 24, 25 and 2 p.m. Feb. 26. 
  • West York will perform “High School Musical” at 7 p.m. Feb. 24, 25 and 2 p.m. Feb. 26. 
  • York Suburban is doing “Seussical” at 7 p.m. March 3, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 4. 
  • Kennard-Dale’s “The Wizard of Oz” will be at 7 p.m. March 2 and 3, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 4 and 3 p.m. March 5. 
  • Red Lion’s “The Sound of Music,” is at 7 p.m. March 2, 3, and 4 and 2 p.m. March 5. 
  • Dover is doing “High School Musical” is at 7 p.m. March 3, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 4 and 2 p.m. March 5. 
  • York Catholic is doing “Matilda the Musical” at 7 p.m. March 3, 4, and 2 p.m. March 5. 
  • Spring Grove’s “Annie” is at 7 p.m. March 3, 4 and 2 p.m. March 5. 
  • Eastern York High School will perform “Matilda” at 7 p.m. March 16 and 17 and 2:30 p.m. March 18. 
  • South Western’s “The Addams Family” is at 7 p.m. March 16, 17 and 18. 
  • Susquehannock will perform “James and the Giant Peach” at 7 p.m. March 24 and 25 and 2 p.m. March 26. 
  • Central York High School will put on “Newsies” at 7:30 p.m. March 31 and April 1 and 2 p.m. April 2. 
  • William Penn Senior High School’s “Addams Family” is at 6:30 p.m. March 31, and 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. April 1. 
  • York Country Day will present a musical "Twelfth Night" March 31-April 2.
  • Dallastown will perform “Legally Blonde” at 7 p.m. April 13 and 14, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 15 and 2 p.m. April 16. 
  • Hanover will perform “Matilda” at 7 p.m. April 21 and 22 and 2 p.m. April 23. 
  • The scholarship presentation Encore will be 2:30 p.m. April 30 at The Pullo Center. 

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.