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OUSD Newsletter:  NHS Musical, It Takes a Village
OUSD Newsletter: NHS Musical, It Takes a Village
Linda Jordan
Monday, March 11, 2019

NHS Spring Musical: It Takes a Village

 Cast of “Crazy For You”

The residents of Ojai can’t help but be aware of a long-standing tradition in our valley; Nordhoff High School’s annual musical.    The declaration of the upcoming production can be seen weeks prior to opening night at prominent locations such as the fence facing Country Club Drive at Matilija Junior High School, the banner across Ojai Avenue at the post office, and the peppering of posters and other publicity materials throughout the valley. Many of Ojai’s performing arts aficionados purchase tickets and attend productions year-over-year. This is the story behind the production of a well-loved tradition, and how the collective efforts of many talented individuals in the little village of Ojai  foster a love of the arts in the next generation.

For over 25 years, Nordhoff High School has produced spring musicals to showcase the talent of its performing arts and stagecraft students. Behind the scenes, the supporting cast of characters - the volunteers - tells a greater story of partnerships and collaborations that span decades, and that result in the growth in confidence, ownership and belief in many of OUSD’s students.  Formidable productions such as Guys and Dolls, Once Upon a Mattress, West Side Story, The Music Man, and last year’s Urinetown may have  intimidated a less-committed bunch.  But this highly-engaged and talented group pulls from its strengths and, after years of collaboration, runs with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine.    

CFY Director, Dr. Marty Babayco, center, with cast of NHS’ 2019 production of “Crazy for You”

Retired from his time as principal  of Meiners Oaks Elementary School, Dr. Marty Babayco has been an integral part of NHS’ Spring Musical, and many other theatrical productions in the Ojai Valley.  Dr. Babayco has participated in over 48 musicals and plays in the Ojai Valley and has directed the last 19 years of Nordhoff High School spring musicals. His most recent community directorial effort for the Ojai Performing Arts Theater, Man of La Mancha received rave reviews while selling out every performance. Dr. Babayco has also been recognized as a Rotary Ojai Living Treasure and received the Education Hero Award by the Ojai Educational Foundation.   

“As an educator, I am certainly inspired by the students themselves,” said Dr. Babayco. “But an even greater inspiration is the longer-lasting effects of performing arts in the schools.  Research indicates that student involvement in the performing arts increases test scores, encourages self confidence, lifts creativity, increases the potential for those students to attend college, decreases dropout rates and lowers discipline problems.”  Ultimately, noted Dr. Babayco, the performing arts creates success in school and in life.


“Crazy For You” Follies Girls

CFY Music Director Bill Wagner  graduated with his Masters in Music Education from the Oberlin Conservatory and began teaching at Nordhoff High School in 1988.  At OUSD, Mr. Wagner conducts the award-winning music ensembles including: Symphonic Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, String Orchestra, Gold ‘n Blue Choir, Chamber Choir and the Matilija Advanced Band. Under Mr. Wagner’s direction, Nordhoff musical ensembles have toured extensively, enjoying memorable experiences such as performing at New York City's Carnegie Hall.  Mr. Wagner has received the City of Ojai’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellowship, the Bravo Award in arts education from the Los Angeles Music Center and Ojai Education Foundation Educator of the Year. In the 2019 spring musical production “...we’re excited to have six Nordhoff students performing alongside seasoned professionals,” said Mr. Wagner.  “This is an opportunity for our very advanced students to get an education they would normally not have in the classroom”.  The 2019 production of Crazy For You represents Mr. Wagner’s twenty-sixth show.

Long-time Ojai resident and CFY’s Vocal Director, Jaye Hersh, is a musician, educator, actor, mother, vocal director, page-turner and sound designer. Over the last 25 years, Jaye has worked with schools and theater companies in the Ojai Valley, fostering personal development through creative expression.  Ms. Hersh has worked with students in the last 20 Nordhoff musicals, and has been honored with the City of Ojai’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  

Jem Ruf as Bobby Child and Stella Moore as Polly Baker in  “Crazy For You”

CFY’s Producer, Dr. Jim Halverson, has been involved with the Nordhoff High School musical since 2001; first as a parent, and then in increasingly pivotal roles as musician, set builder, set painter, and lighting.  All of that experience culminated in Dr. Halverson becoming Nordhoff’s Spring Musical producer in 2007. Dr. Halverson believes strongly that public school students need opportunities for expression and education in the disciplines of music, dance and drama. “We on the production team enjoy watching students demonstrate great gains in self confidence from their time spent on the stage, and in front of their peers and a very supportive community.”  

“Crazy For You” Technical Crew

CFY Stage Manager Katherine White  is enjoying her 14th year working with the spring musical production team.  In addition to her responsibilities as principal of Mira Monte School, Ms. White coordinates performing arts programs for the Ojai Unified School District. She credits her daughter Tuesdè, who participated in the productions when she was a student at Nordhoff,  for getting her involved in OUSD performing arts. According to Ms. White, Assistant Stage Manager, Nordhoff Freshman Wenona Guthrie, has been an integral part in ensuring the finer details of the productions are managed well. “This is the first year that I have had an assistant stage manager,” said Ms. White. “When NHS began the application process for tech crew, Wenona  demonstrated incredible initiative and a desire to learn by contacting me to ask if she could be my assistant.” Ms. White notes she’s glad she said yes, as “....Wenona arrives at the theater early, takes copious notes, addresses needs quickly, and most importantly, works well under pressure.  This is especially important since managing a stage production often feels like participating in a two-hour long emergency drill”. According to Ms. White, Ms. Guthrie hopes to make a career in theater as a stage manager, and this student-leadership opportunity is just one more example of the lasting benefits of the collaborative nature of Nordhoff’s Spring Musical.  


'Crazy For You" Deadrock Cowboys  

Choreographer Janet McNeil has had the pleasure of choreographing Anything Goes for the Ojai Art Center and Man of La Mancha for the Art Center and Opat.  The 2019 production of Crazy for You is  Ms. McNeil’s second show for Nordhoff High School, having choreographed Urinetown last year. 

Set Designer and Builder John Mirk has worked with the NHS Musical team, and in his words ,  “legions of Nordhoff students and parents”, in more than 20 musicals. Mr. Mirk is joined by his wife, Marquita Fleming, in set design.  Their love of backstage production began on the set of Nordhoff’s  previous production of Crazy for You in 2000,  in which their son Dan played the role of “Lank.”  


“Crazy For You” musical number  

James Antunez, CFY’s Sound Designer, is a full time second-generation professional musician and enjoys performing to live audiences at concerts, casinos, clubs, theaters, venues local and abroad. Mr. Antunez is currently on staff at Ojai Presbyterian Church in music ministries.

Co-Lighting Designer Claire M. Cleary is working on her 6th musical with Nordhoff High School.  Ms. McClearly, who shares her duties with Co-Designer Caroline McDonald, studied Lighting Design at The Theatre School at DePaul University, in addition to studying technical theatre at Ventura College.  She most recently won two Four Star Award in lighting design for On Golden Pond and Superior Donuts

Costume Designer Leah Clark works closely with CFY’s producer and director in designing and fitting costumes for the ensemble numbers.  For the 2019 production of  Crazy for You, Ms. Clark designed and created the costumes for the Follies Girls with 1,000 feet of garland and 227 pattern pieces made out of 50 yards of fabric.  “There is nothing like the look on a cast member’s face when they put their costume on for the first time and transform into a character,". said Ms Clark, noting that the dedication of the cast members is evident in all they do.  In addition to investing time in learning lines, choreography and singing numbers, "..the cast members give up their snack, lunch and time after school to help create the costumes."  Ms. Clark has been involved with the NHS Spring Musical since her daughter Kaylyn got involved in drama, starting with the 2007 production of  Anything Goes.

The Production

Billed as "The New Gershwin Musical Comedy", Crazy for You is largely based on the songwriting team’s 1930 musical, Girl Crazy, incorporating songs from several other productions as well.   Nordhoff’s production of Crazy for You is showing at the Matilija Auditorium, Thursdays - Sundays, March 7th-10th and March 14th - 17th.  To learn more about NHS Music’s 2019 production of Crazy for You, or to purchase tickets, please visit the NHS Music websitehere .  OUSD employees receive discounted ticket prices for March 7th, 8th and 14th shows, and should contact Robyn Halverson for discounted tickets at

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