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It’s curtains for Granite Bay’s longtime drama teacher

Jim Prichard’s students will perform 'Legally Blonde,' which opens Thursday
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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With their teacher in earshot, students at Granite Bay High School joke about how much they dislike this authority figure - which couldn't be further from the truth.

"Your grades depend on this," says drama teacher Jim Prichard, in a mockingly stern voice.

Then the truth comes out with declarations of admiration and respect.

"He's a wonderful teacher, so compassionate and he really cares about all of us," says junior Alanna Wilson. "I love Mr. Prichard... He puts all his effort into the show. But he can be firm, which is good. I like the strength he brings."

Wilson and several of her cast mates for the production of "Legally Blonde - the Musical" agree: Prichard's retirement at the end of this school year will be a major loss. He's taught performing arts there since 1999, three years after the campus opened.

"It's a legacy ending," says senior Sara Beil.

Beil has performed in a musical each year since she was a freshman. She plays a Delta Nu sorority girl and friend of lead character Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde."

"It's really an intense musical," Beil says. "There are so many set changes and so many costume changes ... it's a very fun musical and I think that will show through at performance time."

The plot centers on Elle, a sorority girl who dresses in all-pink outfits and loves pampering. But when her boyfriend dumps her for someone more serious, Elle heads to Harvard Law School to try to win him back.

The play is based on the popular 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon. The rights for the musical recently became available and Prichard says a lot of schools are jumping on the opportunity to perform the show.

"It's a great fit for high school drama programs," he says. "Most (programs) are heavy on girls and light on guys. This musical has a lot of great roles for females."

The 28-member cast includes senior Sharon Vaupen who plays Paulette, a hairdresser and Elle's best friend.

"I'm the 'bend-and-snap' one," she says, referencing a move used to attract male suitors.

Vaupen has performed in school productions since freshman year and this marks her last hurrah.

"High school would have totally been a different experience if I wasn't in (drama)," she says.

It's also the final show for Prichard, who plans to spend retirement with family and traveling. His wife, Rita, is Granite Bay High School's speech and debate teacher and she's also bidding adieu at the end of the year.

Prichard previously worked at Galt High School for 25 years before Granite Bay administrators came knocking on his wife's door.

"We came as a package," he says. "It was a tough decision after 25 years. This is an amazing school and a great facility. It's a drama teacher's dream."

The theater building has a stage, scene shop and classroom. Through the years, Prichard has worked to improve production value. For instance, the program began with two wireless mics and now has 32, so all the kids can be heard. They also perform with a live orchestra.

First-year Granite Bay English teacher Kyle Holmes will take over as drama teacher in the fall.

The school puts on three main stage productions a year, which makes "Legally Blonde" the 36th show in Prichard's Granite Bay career. His favorite show is always the one they're currently working on, he says. He's welcoming retirement, although it's bittersweet.

"It's kind of a happy-sad thing, with moments like this ..." Prichard says, trailing off as he beams at his young actors rehearsing. "With this being the last semester, I'm really appreciating the good moments."

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Granite Bay High School presents "Legally Blonde - the Musical"

When: Campus theater, 1 Grizzly Way in Granite Bay

Where: 7:30 p.m. April 19 - 21, and May 2 - 4

Cost: $12 reserved seats

Info: Buy tickets at www.seatyourself.biz/granite