Tonight, the curtain will rise on Lodi High School's spring musical, "Li'l Abner."
It takes place in the Deep South, in a fictional town called Dogpatch. The town is known for an unusual tradition. Each year on Sadie Hawkins Day, a race is held. All the single girls chase all the single boys. If she catches him, the pair are allowed to marry.
Daisy Mae, played by senior Vikki Wohl, 18, has her eye on Li'l Abner, a tall strapping lad played by senior Kinsey Green, 18, and has tried to catch him for years.
But his mother regularly slips him a tonic with unexpected effects, leaving Li'l Abner with little interest in girls.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is looking for a place to test a new weapon. They've got their eyes on Dogpatch, an "unnecessary town." The citizens of Dogpatch must scramble to find something unique enough about their home to make it worth saving. Is it the locally brewed tonic, or something else?
Drama club adviser Marcus Goodman selected the fun musical so the club could work on something lighter than last year's "Fiddler on the Roof." The story is based on the comic strip "Li'l Abner" by Al Capp. He said the play works because his students are willing to work.
"I like a student-led play," he said. "They learn a lot more when I'm relinquishing responsibility."
The young actors are energized when they talk about the work they've put in this semester.
Wohl is challenged by Daisy Mae because of the character's mild demeanor. A bigger challenge was choreographing dance numbers for the 50-person cast and herself.
"It was a double job, along with learning lines and all the usual tasks," she said. "After so much effort, it's nice to see it pay off."
Matthew Adams, 16, plays Pappie Yokum. He can't imagine spending his time anywhere but the theater, unless it's in chess club. He joined the drama club to brush up on his public speaking skills.
"It's good for college and stuff," he said. "And it's fun. Don't forget that. It's fun."
Some obstacles came up along the way. Choir teacher Amy Dalhstrom had planned to accompany the singers on the piano, but it was only a few days ago that she was able to confirm. In the meantime, the singers rehearsed with a CD.
This week, actors are stocking up on hot tea and cough drops to keep their voices in good shape. Losing one's voice during performance is not on anyone's to-do list.
These tactics come with the territory. Student actors love what they do, said Wohl.
"When I'm on-stage, it's the best feeling in the world," said Samantha Johnson, 15, who plays Mamie Yokum. "Nothing else matters."