Liberty to Compete in the St. Louis High School Musical Theater Awards

‘Bright Star’ the musical tells an emotional tale of love

Zoe Snell


Henry Sartain

Anna Wright, who plays journalist Alice Murphy, performs the first solo in the play.

Henry Sartain, Reporter

Liberty has delivered many amazing performances in the past for our entertainment, but this musical is going for more than that. For the first time ever, Liberty High School is competing in the St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards (SLHSMTA).

There are multiple different categories of award nominations, from outstanding technical execution to outstanding leading actor/actress. This year, 35 schools in the St. Louis area are competing in the SLHSMTA. All of the schools that are nominated for best outstanding musical, the cast will perform a scene from their musical at the Fox Theatre in late May.

Inspired by a true event, Liberty’s spring musical is called “Bright Star” and follows a story of romance and redemption in the South during the 1920’s and 40’s. When writer Alice Murphy (Anna Wright) meets a soldier who comes home after World War II, she tries to finally understand her past. As the writer dives deeper, what she finds will change both of their lives. With enchanting medleys, powerful songs, and talented performers, “Bright Star” will fill you with all kinds of emotion. This heart-filled experience debuts on March 2 and lasts until March 4 and tickets can be purchased online. All performances begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. 

The director of the play is Ms. Gehrke, who teaches theatre arts I and II, tech theatre I through III, as well as acting and improv. Ms. Gehrke has directed many plays in the past and “Bright Star” will be her 10th show she has directed at Liberty. She is in charge of the entire play but works alongside other teachers. The teachers who help with production are Mr. Eversole, Mr. Datz, Coach Hill, and their choreographer, Cameron Bopp.

When asked about their chances of getting nominated she said with confidence, “I feel like what we are putting on this stage is the best of the best that we’ve done.” Even if the show isn’t nominated, Ms. Gehrke still is proud of her cast and team.

“If we don’t get nominated I wouldn’t be disappointed because we’ve put everything out there,” Gehrke said. “There’s nothing more that I feel like we could have done to get the show to be in the best shape it could be in.”

A key that makes a play great is their leading stars and Ms. Gehrke has nothing but good things to say about senior Anna Wright and junior Connor Higlen.

Ms. Gehrke instructs the casts and crew on what to do. (Henry Sartain)

Anna Wright is the leading actress in this play who plays Alice Murphy. The young performer started getting into theater in the sixth grade. Wright has been in four musicals now and has been a part of eight productions at Liberty. She has performed in many other musicals here at the school such as “Mamma Mia!” “Cinderella” and “The Trail to Oregon!” Wright explains how she believes that the cast and crew have a shot at winning the awards.

“I think we have a really good chance because it’s a really meaningful story and I think it’ll touch a lot of people’s hearts in a special way,” Wright said. “I think this, if any year, this is the best year for us.” 

This musical isn’t the only chance this young performer will have. Once she is done with her senior year, Wright wants to major in musical theater when she goes to college, which means there will be more chances to come for her. With her confidence and talent, there is no doubt that she will achieve her goal.

Logan Honerkamp and Payton Busselman rehearse together during a scene in “Bright Star.” (Henry Sartain)

The other lead is Connor Higlen who plays Jimmy Ray Dobbs. Higlen was introduced to this musical by Ms. Gehrke which he then immediately found an interest in. It was after being introduced that he auditioned for the lead role and succeeded. Higlen explains how he hopes that this play will fill people with joy as he was when he first heard this story.

“I’m just hoping that the people who come see it will leave with good energy,” Higlen said. There are some more intense scenes in this play than other plays that have been performed at the school. “It’s got a little dark aspect to it, but the music’s up beat, the story’s beautiful,” he said. “I’m hoping people will leave with a smile on their face,” This isn’t the first musical that Higlen has been a part of. He has also been in “Mamma Mia!” last spring. Higlen isn’t sure if he will follow along a career in either acting or singing, but is “not gonna complain” if he decides that. Just like all the other cast members, we wish him good luck.

This production is going to bring out everything that the school has to offer. Whether or not the school gets nominated, we will know that the cast and crew gave it their all to put on what could be a performance that could change you.