When Braden Miller first heard West Fargo Sheyenne High School Theatre would be performing "Titanic," he wondered if he was going to have to sing an all-too-familiar Celine Dion tune. To his relief, and perhaps to the relief of audiences, this rendition of the infamous sinking ship isn't like the movie.
Tony Peterson, Sheyenne's choir director who will be directing his first show at the school with the help of first-year theater director Hannah Amundson, said this "Titanic" plot is so different that the only similarity is the sinking ship. When Sheyenne was first considering plays for the winter, Peterson joked that this might be the right script. But former theater director Adam Pankow thought it wasn't a bad idea. Peterson listened to the songs from the musical and couldn't get them out of his head.
Peterson felt "Titanic" was a good fit for his kids because it's ensemble heavy with no typical leading roles.
"They all get their moment. Everybody pulls equal weight," Peterson said. "We had such a great variety of talent from ninth grade all the way to the 12th grade that I thought we could showcase so many great talents."
Miller, a Sheyenne senior who plays Barrett, said this plot follows more characters through the aftermath of the sinking ship. He said audiences will see a more factual portrayal of the historical event on top of emotional stories.
"The movie is super famous, but it didn't factually consider everything," Miller said. "I also think there's a lot of great music that will get stuck in (audiences') heads and maybe give you a night to get out some emotions."
Senior Alli Pieper, who plays passenger Kate Mullins, said the plot follows all sorts passengers and how the ship sinking shaped their lives and split some families apart.
"It's so sad that people had to make choices like that to stay with their loved ones or not," Pieper said. "It's interesting to see how to act like that and figure out how to portray those emotions on stage to see what that must have felt like."
Peterson said the kids and community of Sheyenne have developed high expectations of the theater shows. Peterson said he's never directed a show this size before and hopes to live up to those standards.
"I know how talented they are and how much they love doing this," Peterson said. "Getting the opportunity to work with them directly in another thing they love to do and being able to help them make something very cool come to life, that's why we do this job."
Miller said his mom forced him to audition for a middle school production of "High School Musical" and has been involved with theater since. He said he loved singing, being on stage and the camaraderie of a cast.
Now he's pursuing a degree in musical theater and will have auditions with Elon (N.C.) University and other schools.
"I think if I work hard at a college level, I could succeed at this business," Miller said. "It's definitely me broadening my horizons, but it's something I'm ready to do."
Pieper, who will be going to North Dakota State University for music education, said she was hooked by theater after her mom allowed her to be in "Sleeping Beauty" as a youngster. She said she's enjoyed the different directing perspectives that have come through Sheyenne.
Pieper said "Titanic" is just another chance for Sheyenne to show performing versatility.
"I think it was really impactful for the time. This was the unsinkable ship," Pieper said. "It's fascinating to see the human error in this and see how it affected so many people from so many different places in the world."
If you go
"Titanic" performed by West Fargo Sheyenne High School Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9-10, 16-17; 2 p.m. Feb. 11, 18
Where: West Fargo Sheyenne High School Theatre (800 40th Avenue East)
Admission: $6 for students, $8 for adults
For tickets or more information, go to westfargotheatre.com or call (701) 499-3237.