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Greathouse hopes for great performance

11/2/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Spencer Greathouse is looking forward to this year's fall musical like no other.

Not only will it be the last musical during his career at Hays High School, but Greathouse's grandparents from Council Grove are coming to Sunday's matinee.

Dean and Sharon Spencer are in for a treat. Their grandson has the lead role in "Li'l Abner," based on a satirical American comic strip that featured a fictional clan of hillbillies from Kentucky.

"My grandpa is 89 years old, and when I called and told them what (the musical) was, he started telling me all the plots of Li'l Abner," Greathouse said. "He wanted to come see it."

HHS will perform for local elementary and middle school students Tuesday and Wednesday, a good rehearsal for the public productions, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9 and 10 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11, all at 12th Street Auditorium.

Tickets can be purchased for $8 in advance by calling Hays High at (785) 623-2600 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.; they are $10 at the door.

Greathouse, a bass, still nabbed the role of Li'l Abner, whose parts are mostly tenor.

"He had a great audition," said Johnny Matlock, HHS' vocal musical instructor and production coordinator of the musical.

Brenda Meder of the Hays Arts Council is directing the production, and Tawnita Augustine is the choreographer.

Greathouse said he was blessed Matlock "knows my capabilities and put his trust in me."

Now, the football player-turned-actor is thinking about continuing his acting career in college.

Greathouse went out for football as a freshman at HHS and didn't think he had enough time to devote to both a sport and the musical in the fall.

After making Chamber Singers, Hays High's select vocal performance group, at the end of his freshman year, Greathouse faced a tough decision heading into his sophomore year.

"I love sports, really like football, but I like to act, too," said Greathouse, who also participates in swimming and baseball at Hays High. "So I decided to try the musical."

After playing Grandpa George, the funny grandpa in "Willy Wonka," as a sophomore, he played the title character's father in "Aida," a classic tale of a forbidden love between an enslaved Nubian princess and an Egyptian soldier.

Greathouse was excited to hear this year's choice of musical, a stark contrast to the more serious "Aida," with which Hays High won numerous awards from the Music Theatre of Wichita.

"Comedy is my cup of tea," he said.

Matlock also thinks a change is good.

"Last year, we had eight principal roles," he said, "and this year, there are 40 characters. It's neat to do something different" for students and directors alike.

"It really changes the way you prepare," Matlock said.

"Li'l Abner" also has something to offer for all ages.

"It's got comedy and politics, so with this year being an election year, that ties in," Greathouse said. "And people, like my grandpa, can relate because of the comic strip."