Saddle up for song and dance

By Michael Beadle

Mamas, it’s OK to let your sons grow up to be cowboys — especially if they end up singin’ and dancin’ in the Summit choir at Tuscola High School.

Ladies and gentlemen in the school’s elite choir don cowboy hats and put on their best boots for the annual Country and Western Show, which runs March 6-9 in a tradition that offers good ol’ fashioned entertainment from talented students who have as much fun on stage as the audience does watching.

This year’s theme is “If That Ain’t Country” and features such classic hits as “Stand By Your Man,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.” Summit will perform the shows at 8 p.m. March 6,7 and 8 as well as a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on March 9. Performances will include a live band featuring Joe Keller, Chris McElrath, Wade Flynn, Rick Roberts and Keith Hightower — a group assembled by Keller, who owns Eaglenest Entertainment in Maggie Valley. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased from the school or from Summit members.

For Tuscola seniors like Summit President Shane Heatherly, the Country and Western Show is one of the biggest highlights of the school year. The choral group performed at the Candlelight Processional at Disneyworld in Florida in December and has performed other shows locally, but singing for parents and friends in the school auditorium has its own sentimental rewards.

Last year, Heatherly was giving a solo during the Saturday night performance — usually the biggest crowd in the weekend run of Summit shows — and his CD skipped. He got a few laughs when he asked, “Can I get a redo?” but the show went on.

In this year’s show, look for Heatherly and fellow cowboy classmates to dress as ladies and ham it up for the Shania Twain hit song, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.”

Having earned a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Heatherly plans to study engineering, but he’ll also continue singing in college.

“I plan on staying with it,” he said.

In the weeks leading up to the big show, it’s rehearse, rehearse, rehearse — daily at school and for several hours on Saturdays and Sundays — to make sure the performances live up to the Summit tradition of folksy fun and true-blue talent that local audiences have come to expect.

“I think it could be the best one ever,” Heatherly said. “This is a real big deal around Haywood County.”

The show would not have its full flair without dancing to go along with the songs. Four of Tuscola’s finest are helping with the choreography — Lindsey Clontz, Merritt Lance, Becca Blalock and Emily Christopher.

For Lance, a senior who plans on studying industrial design at N.C. State University next year, one challenge in this year’s show has been dealing with an odd number of students — 10 girls and nine guys.

“It’s really difficult to work with groups of three,” she said. In some cases, the students just have to improvise during the couple dancing.

Apparently, it’s a little harder teaching the guys how to dance, Lance admitted.

“They’re doing pretty good,” she said during a recent rehearsal. “I was impressed.”

The show opens and closes with the Brooks and Dunn country hit “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” which is a lengthy medley of singing and dancing. Summit has been learning the songs since the start of the new year.

The best part, for Lance, is when it all fits together — the songs, the choreography, the timing and the occasional ad lib humor.

For Tuscola Choral Director Fritzie Wise, the Summit show is a chance for students to find a part of themselves that they didn’t know they had — whether it’s a voice or a dance or the confidence just to get up on stage.

This year’s ticket sales will help raise money to pay for new stage curtains as well as costumes, sheet music and upcoming Summit trips. Several thousand dollars are needed to replace aging curtains and metal rods on the sides and back of the school’s main stage.

To purchase a ticket for any of this year’s Summit shows, call Tuscola High School at 828.456.2708 or contact any Summit member.

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