Curtain calls: TRA Fine Arts seniors reflect on tenure prior to final production ‘Crazy for You’

Photos by Thomas Sellers Jr.

The award-winning Tipton-Rosemark Academy Fine Arts Department will present the Gershwin musical comedy “Crazy for You” this weekend for six shows.

The production will be March 28-31 at the TRA Fine Arts Building at 8696 Rosemark Road, marking the final shows for 12 seniors under the guidance of Director Lalania Vaughn. Seniors Gracie Easley and Joshua Waits are looking forward to the challenge of performing in a play that features music, acting and dance.

“It’s lot of dance – lot of dance,” Easley said. “It’s very challenging.”

Easley will play the co-lead Polly Barker opposite Hutch Dunavant’s Bobby Childs.

“This one is helping me step out of my comfort zone because I’ve never had a part this big,” Easley said. “It’s that and also this show is a good show for bonding with the rest of your cast mates.

“There are so many big group ensembles,” she continued. “And the whole show is about coming together and that’s what we’re able to do. It’s also bringing a small school to life in a way.”

A part of the ensemble is Waits as one of the leads.

“We’ve got great choreographers,” he said. “They pretty much tell us what we can and can’t do. They are like, ‘Hey, you don’t know how to do this? Well, you’re going to learn.’ It’s one of the most challenging shows.

“We’ve basically worked on shows in the past that focused on one thing,” Waits added. “This production takes everything we’ve ever learned like a little bit of these and a little bit of that.”

TRA is the only high school in America to take on the challenge of “Crazy for You.” Several hours of rehearsal, countless time of work on dance steps and getting vocals down as the pianist played has the students ready for the debut March 28 at 7 p.m.

“Crazy For You” is the classic tale of a boy, a girl and a theater in need of salvation. Stage-struck Bobby Child works as a banker for his overbearing mother, Lottie, but spends his off hours practicing dance routines and sneaking in to audition for Zangler’s Follies.

Bobby’s showbiz career is going nowhere. Arriving in Deadrock, Nev., Bobby falls for Polly Baker, the sweet and sturdy postmistress.

Easley has been groomed for this role after taking on her first role in “The Sound of Music” at the age of eight. She has performed in more than 20 productions with several coming through the TRA Fine Arts Department.

“I really don’t know what I would do without it,” she said. “This building is my home. And the people here have become my family. We’re here all the time, like 24/7. It is an escape, really.”

Some of the seniors in the cast pose for a group photo.

Waits said time spent in the TRA Fine Arts Department is inspiring and has lifelong effects.

“Life changing because before I came here I didn’t do anything in the theater or arts,” he said. “I had one drama class with Mrs. Vaughn in middle school.

“It was crazy because it slowly grew on me to the point now it is all I do,” Waits continued. “I played sports in middle school and then I quit sports. And my dad (Coach Bailey Waits) even quit sports to support me.”

The TRA Fine Arts Department has huge family support. The administration and faculty are also on board encouraging the students.

The previous production that packed the house was “Beauty and the Beast” during the holiday season. Now 2018-19 closes out with “Crazy for You.”

“The family it brings to you,” Waits said of his final production. “No matter what the day brings to you like if you just failed a test. You come over here and there is something new happening like today with us getting costumes. There is always something good happening here. There is never a dull moment.”

TRA seniors Gracie Easley and Joshua Waits will participate in their last Fine Arts production this weekend in “Crazy for You.”

Easley and Waits will be heading off to their futures. Waits is looking to pursue a degree related to performing arts and entertainment.

Easley will be taking her talents to William Cary University in Hattiesburg, Miss. But before they walk across the stage in May for the 2019 TRA graduation, Easley and Waits have to take care of business six more times for the Fine Arts Department.

“It’s an extremely fun show,” Easley said. “It has a lot of music and dancing. The choreography is phenomenal. There’s not a dull moment in the show. You won’t get bored. It is so funny.”

“Crazy for You” will hit the stage March 28 and 29 at 7 p.m., and March 30-31 for shows at 2 and 7 p.m. both days. For more information, call (901) 829-4221.