By Caitlin Knox ‘14

Georgetown, KY – The Lyric Theatre Society of Georgetown College is performing a challenging yet comical opera next month, and the director is entrusting four Scott County High School graduates with the lead roles.

“They’re just that good,” said director/producer Heather Hunnicutt, laughing at the implication of any rigging for local marketing purposes.

The four double-cast leads for “Falstaff” are Chuck Harris, left, with the arms of Liz Maines around him; and Nathan Van Til getting the same attention of Sarah Smith. Chuck and Sarah had major roles in the LTS’s first opera, “The Secret Marriage of Figaro," several years ago. Nathan and Liz had major roles in a recent Georgetown Community Theatre production of “Oliver!,” for which Chuck was music director.

Dr. Hunnicutt, Chair of the Music Department, actually auditioned all of the students wanting a role first; then, she picked a production around the cast. She chose the 16th Century opera “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi, who gave the infamous drunken knight of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” new life. She double-cast Chuck Harris and Nathan Van Til as Falstaff and Elizabeth (Liz) Maines and Sarah Smith as Alice – local natives all.

All four were in the Scott County chorus at some point, and their choir director Brent Merritt is still one of their most dedicated supporters. Chuck Harris, who’s now a Vocal Performance major, said he was in the SCHS band until Merritt encouraged him to start singing his junior year. He would go on to sing the lead role in “Guys and Dolls.” Nathan’s first role was a street-sweeper in that high school production, then three years later he was Horton, the lead in “Suessical the Musical.” 

The four will alternate, each performing in two of the four “Falstaff” shows in the College’s John L. Hill Chapel – 8 p.m. on Nov. 4; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Nov. 5; and 3 p.m. on Nov. 6. Tickets go on sale Oct. 6 at the College bookstore and may be reserved by calling (502) 863-8134; Adults $10, Students $5, Children under 10 FREE (show is rated ‘PG-13’.)

When transfer student Sarah Smith learned that Verdi’s difficult opera had been selected for them to perform, she thought Dr. Hunnicutt had gone insane. Senior Chuck Harris agreed, saying, “most graduate schools don’t do Verdi.”

The four locals have been working on the music since summer and frequently came back to campus to rehearse together. For junior Liz Maines, it is her first role as a soprano (she is usually mezzo-soprano), and it is Chuck’s first time leading as a baritone (he is a counter-tenor). Junior Nathan Van Til admitted that this has been some of the hardest music he has had to learn so far.

With all the countless hours of rehearsals together, the two Falstaffs and two Alices were bound to grow closer. But no one expected the bond that formed between Chuck and Nathan. They were friends before, but now they eat together, hang out together, and Nathan stays at Chuck’s dorm at least two nights a week (he usually commutes, so it makes it easier to get to frequent rehearsals). “I feel a lot more comfortable being in your wedding now,” quipped Nathan to Chuck, who next year is marrying Haley Howard – his “wife” in last season’s “The Gondoliers.”

Liz said that having a double has been fun as well as a learning experience. “You get to see how someone else interprets the role, and it teaches you to be a team instead of a making it a competition,” she said.

This double-casting also teaches sharing. The two Falstaffs – or “Falstaves” as Hunnicutt calls them – will be wearing the same challenging fat suit. “It makes you feel like you are really fat,” Nathan said. Their character can’t move around much, so in most scenes Falstaff is sitting or standing in one place.

Both Chuck and Nathan agreed that their costume is not as heavy as it is hot; there are ‘queen-sized’ tights and many other layers that go on top of the suit. Adding to heat to their rather large knight with yellow teeth is a scruffy beard. So, to look and feel the part, the usually clean-shaven male students haven’t used a razor in weeks. 

Sarah and Liz are most excited about looking the part in their exquisite Elizabethan-style costumes. As the most prominent woman in her town, Alice has the most elaborate costume of anyone in the cast. The pair will share the two handmade dresses designed especially for them. Both dresses consist of more than one piece (skirt, bodice, sleeves). They will also be accessorized with a ridiculous amount of jewels and a wig.

Since putting these costumes on by themselves is close to impossible, the women and men will have “dressers” to help them  with their many layers of clothing. But even with their help, it will take at least an hour and a half for each person to get ready.

When asked what part of the show they were most looking forward to, “the Falstaves” answered simultaneously with “the food.” They eat throughout the whole performance – turkey legs, fruit…and they also get to throw food at servants across the stage.

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Chuck and Nathan are especially involved with extra-curricular activities, including the College’s first men’s a cappella group, The George-Tones.  Chuck is founder and director; Nathan is business manager and assistant director. Then, Chuck is also the president of three music organizations, and leads Sunday worship at his church, Victory Life. Nathan leads the music for his church, Trinity Assembly of God, and helps out with the youth on Wednesday nights.

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Last weekend, Festival of the Horse patrons may have seen the four local singers among the cast members who passed out “Falstaff” flyers. This Friday afternoon after school, Scott County High students will get a chance to meet them in the SCHS choir room and compete for a non-speaking role in one of the shows. Competitors will draw a character and a situation out of a hat – similar to the former TV series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” – and improvise a scene with an LTS member.  A top boy and a top girl will be selected; they also get two free tickets so their parents may attend the show.