Nineteen years of ‘Stephen Week’

Nineteen years of ‘Stephen Week’

Jenks High School is well-known for many things.

From athletics to academics, Jenks leaves a mark everywhere it goes and that includes musical theatre.

Every year in late February or early March, Jenks High School delivers “magic” with its musical productions put on by the vocal music department.

One of the reasons for the success of the musicals is the dance instruction the students receive from professional choreographer Stephen Casey, who has instructed some of the top musical theatre performers in the world over the past three-plus decades. Casey has spent 19 of those years taking one week out of his busy schedule to travel to Oklahoma and choreograph the Jenks High School musical for that particular year.

This year, the vocal music department is putting on “Seussical the Musical” March 5 through March 7 at the Jenks High School Performing Arts Center.

After working a show in Florida, Casey arrived in Tulsa at 3:30 a.m. Jan. 19 to begin working with the JHS students that day. He was here through last Saturday and taught every dance to the cast, as they prepare for the show in early March.

Casey first started coming to Jenks in the early 2000’s.

Larry Downey, who was the Vocal Music Director at Jenks High School at the time, brought Casey in after the choreographer Jenks had been using couldn’t come due to health reasons. Casey said he would come if he could do it in a week and Downey agreed, and “Stephen week” was born.

“I thought after Mr. Downey and Julie (Hester, now Vocal Music Director) retired several years ago, they wouldn’t bring me back, but they did, and now that Julie is back and it’s going great,” Casey said. “I look forward to it. I have always come in January. I always liked coming here because Mr. Downey always pushed me to do something new.”

This isn’t the first time Casey and Jenks High School have done “Seussical the Musical”. The vocal musical department did the show 15 years ago and Casey said that was the first time he had ever taught Seussical the Musical.

“I learned it here,” Casey said. “I remember when I first started coming here to Jenks, I loved it. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work to do all that in a week. It is very intense for everyone. The kids get to experience learning fast, which is good because that is what they are going to have to do in the real world.”

Casey said he was impressed with Jenks students from day one 19 years ago.

“They have always been very disciplined,” Casey said. “They have a good concentration and knowledge of music, and they can sing and dance because of show choir. I usually don’t do high school theatre because it is always a chore in the movement department. Jenks students know how to sing while moving and they behave in a professional way.”

Casey said he likes to brag about Jenks High School when he is back home.

“When I show people the videos, they are amazed,” Casey said. “They always say that college theatre is not that good. They really have something special here and they have tremendous talent. The standard is elevated, and I enjoy being a part of it.”

Make sure to check out the Jenks Tribune throughout the next month, as there will be more advance coverage of “Seussical the Musical”, as early March nears.

Kyle Salomon

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