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Neverland Theater presents ‘The Temporary Detective’

// Play runs July 24-26 at Columbia Junior High’s Performing Arts Center

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When Fife Schools theater arts students stage a play, there’s no question that it’s going to be a guaranteed good time for the audience. First there’s the dynamic duo of sisters (and Fife High grads) Hayley and Emily Rathburn. The skills and charming personalities of these two directors seem to bring out the best in their young students of stage. Then there’s the gift of Fife drama teachers and playwrights Dave and Teresa Hockman, both of whom have crafted Fife’s theater program into something to be very proud of. And, last but not least are the budding young actors themselves, who for weeks put in the solid effort and many hours of learning lines, songs, dances and rehearsing day after day. Put these elements all together and the result is downright magical.

Now in its second season, Fife’s summer theater camp Neverland Theater Company will raise the curtain on its new production, “The Temporary Detective,” June 24-26. Under the tutelage of the Rathburn sisters, the student actors have been working since June on presenting this wacky musical comedy, an original play the Hockmans wrote years ago, with two new songs added for this performance. In fact, Hayley and Emily were in this play when they were still in school and learning the ropes from the Hockmans. Now as adults the sisters took the reins of the Hockmans’ Wonderland Theater last summer and renamed it but kept the high quality and professional foundation the Hockmans built over the years. Last summer, Neverland’s premiere stage production of “Sleeping Beauty” showed that the summer camp program would definitely be around for years to come.

“It’s been a real treat to work on this show in this capacity because being in it is a totally different experience so taking it on from this side is very cool,” Hayley said. “It’s been very exciting because we have 62 kids and a lot of them are very young – like 8, 9, 10 – or if they’re not that young they’re brand new. It’s been really fun to see kids who were shy on the first day and by now everybody is friends, they’re out of their comfort zone and everyone’s having fun.”

“The Temporary Detective” tells the hilarious story of Beau, a hillbilly with a penchant for detective work. With his mail-order detective’s badge all polished up, he sets out to fight crime in them thar hills. He encounters all kinds of crazy characters along the way – from money hungry villains to sassy saloon girls and hilarious hill folk, one of which is Mary – a tough tomboy who’s tasked with keeping the family farm together. City slickers arrive looking for gold on Mary’s land, and they hatch a scheme to trick her and hilarity ensues. There’s a love story in the mix as well, which adds charm and heart to the tale.

“The Hockmans did a really outstanding job with not just the script but the music in this one,” Hayley said. “You’re going to leave humming all the songs and doing the dances. It’s just a big ho-down party the whole time. The kids have loved it from day one. They just can’t wait to work on this stuff and be the silly drunks, saloon girls – it’s a blast.”

“It’s going to be a really good time. This is probably our favorite play to work on,” said Emily.

Tickets to “The Temporary Detective” are just $6 at the door. The play takes the stage Friday, July 24 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 25 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, July 26 at 2 p.m. Prior to each performance a short film will be shown that Emily put together that re-caps the students’ experience this year at Neverland Theater. And thanks to parent volunteers, the Performing Arts Center “lobby” will be transformed into a country fair complete with hay bales and the like and a booth where members of the audience can buy little rose bundles with a personalized message. Neverland Theater T-shirts will also be for sale, along with DVDs of the play and photo packages of the young actors. All proceeds go back into the Neverland Theater program so ensure its continuation for next year’s batch of young thespians.