For the first time in a decade, a leading theater company is paying a visit to Hatteras Island to stage a big city-worthy musical, and to work with the talented students of the Cape Hatteras Secondary School’s (CHSS) Drama Club.
The Hurrah Players, an acclaimed non-profit theater company out of Norfolk, Virginia, will be staging a one-night-only production of Finding Nemo Jr. on Saturday at 7:00 p.m., and the community is invited to come out to the CHSS auditorium to catch the show.
“This show is really incredible,” said CHSS Drama Club Director Blake Taft. “It’s the East Coast premiere of the show, because before this production, Finding Nemo Jr. had only been adapted for the stage in Disneyland in California.”
The upcoming visit by the Hurrah Players is notable for a range of reasons.
For one thing, Hatteras Island visitors and residents will be among the first in the world to see Finding Nemo Jr., as the Hurrah Players are the first community theater group to stage the roughly 90-minute production on the Eastern Seaboard. For another, it marks the revitalization of the CHSS theater program, as a touring theater group is welcomed to the island community to bring a high-caliber production close to home.
“The Hurrah Players are the top tier of theatrical companies, and our [CHSS] theater hasn’t had an outside company come in about 10 years,” said Taft. “Other schools up the beach have traveling theater companies visit because they have the facilities, but we have the facilities, too. We have a beautiful auditorium and a big arts community, and this puts Hatteras Island on the map [for theater productions.]”
Taft is an alumnus of CHSS, and after studying theater at George Mason University, he returned home to reignite the school’s drama program, which started with a December 2022 staging of Elf the Musical Jr., the first CHSS musical in four years.
The new partnership with the Hurrah Players is another milestone for the CHSS Drama Club, and a connection that was formed from Taft’s own theater education when he was a student at Cape Hatteras.
“This was a program we did every year back when I was in high school, and I looked forward to the annual visit from the [Hurrah Players],” said Taft. “It was very beneficial to us, because we didn’t know much about how to do a musical and the technical elements, so having the Hurrah Players come down helped us get that experience.”
“A lot of people within the Hurrah Players have gone on to Broadway, national tours, film, and television, so they know what they’re doing,” he added. “And they’re very good at teaching their students the fundamentals, and giving them the tools they need to succeed.”
The weekend visit by the Hurrah Players isn’t just an opportunity for islanders to catch a large-scale theater production. It’s also a chance for the roughly 30 students in the CHSS Drama Club to make new connections, and uncover the details of launching a touring production.
“It’s like a two-day internship,” said Taft. “They get to meet with the cast and crew, and have the experience of a touring company.”
A couple of the CHSS Drama Club members will have cameos on stage filling in gaps when needed, while other members will help with set changes, or assist the sound engineers and light designers in staging the production.
“It’s a wonderful hands-on experience, and a great opportunity for the kids,” said Taft.
While the students benefit from the technical work behind the scenes, shadowing the Hurrah Players as they set up the production, the community at large will benefit from the excitement of the show itself.
Finding Nemo Jr. is a colorful and fun musical that follows the familiar Disney story, but enhances the themes of the movie with beautiful sets, exceptional acting, and undeniably catchy songs, (including a full-length version of Dory’s mantra, “Just Keep Swimming.”)
“There’s a beautiful story behind Finding Nemo that everyone connects with,” said Taft. “This production is very family oriented and family-friendly… And who doesn’t love dancing sea turtles and clownfish?”
Taft and the Drama Club hope that the one-night show will draw a big local crowd, and will set the stage for return visits from the Hurrah Players for years to come.
As an added benefit, a portion of the ticket sales from the event will go to fund the Drama Club as they work to launch their own grand productions, including the upcoming May staging of High School Musical.
“We’re bringing a production that is as big as a regional theater production to Hatteras Island, and having that sort of cultural experience down here is really remarkable,” said Taft. “You’re going to feel like you’re watching a big show, and this is a really important moment in the growth of our theater program, and our local arts community.”
How to catch the show:
- Finding Nemo Jr. will be held at the CHSS Auditorium on Saturday, April 1 at 7:00 p.m., located at 48576 N.C. Highway 12 in Buxton.
- Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and children, and can be purchased ahead of time at The Froggy Dog Restaurant in Avon, the front office of CHSS, and at the United Bank in Buxton.
- Tickets may also be available at the door on the evening of the show, but could sell out ahead of time, so advanced purchase is advised.