Roosevelt to 'Light Up the Stars'

Former and current Roosevelt High School students will have a chance to shine and the school's selection for its 2006 spring musical will be revealed at the upcoming Light Up the Stars fund-raising event on Saturday, Oct. 15.

"There is such excitement in the air," drama teacher Ruben VanKempen said. "There are a lot of families that come year after year."

Last year about 300 attended. When the event began 18 years ago, it was quite simply a fund-raiser to obtain lights for the performers. Now the money raised goes to lights, as well as other items, such as a piano, that are needed to support the drama and musical theater programs at the school.

A group of about 25 current Roosevelt students will present a musical revue they have been rehearsing for about three and a half weeks. Roosevelt's annual musical will also be announced during the event. "The musical is the biggest kept secret of the year," Sjoberg said. "If you haven't been to a Roosevelt musical, you really haven't lived."

Many of the drama students at Roosevelt High School have gone on to further training at such institutions as New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Carnegie Mellon and Yale University. Alumni of this program have performed on Broadway and in national tours. Alumni have also found careers in television, and they have performed on the Tony Awards and in television commercials.

Roosevelt graduates also have appeared in international productions in London's West End and other parts of Europe.

Jamie Herlich (Class of 1994), a regional and local musical theater actress, and up-and-coming opera singer Laura Bohn (Class of 1996) will perform at the fund-raising event. Broadway actor Noah Racey (Class of 1989) is tentatively scheduled to perform.

Auction items will include a print by local artist Jan Erion; a dinner cooked by Roosevelt drama teachers VanKempen and Elizabeth Orme, who will also sing a cameo appearance in the spring musical; a hardhat tour of the newly remodeled Roosevelt High School.

After the auction, which funds Roosevelt's regularly scheduled programs, the students will be off and running to fundraise for their trip to Scotland, where they will give 11 performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2006. The trip is estimated to cost $150,000; students are hoping to raise half that amount by the end of next July.

"Like Broadway, the ticket intake is simply not enough to fully fund the production," said Muriel Sjoberg, a parent and member of the Drama Boosters, who help raise money for the school's drama department.

Roosevelt High School has the only full-time drama program in the Seattle School District, offering a full musical-theater program. And students participate in all aspects of the musical. "These shows are amazing," agreed event chairperson Pat Marcus. "They're not like your usual high-school production. They're very professionally done."

This November, the drama department will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roosevelt Drama Fest, a series of student-directed, one-act plays. Then this winter brings on the Advanced Drama students' production, and the year culminates with the spring musical.

Light Up the Stars will take place at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2100 Boyer Ave. E. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., and walk-ins are welcome. There will be two silent auctions and one live auction, with dinner served at 7:45 p.m. and the live auction beginning at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $35.

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