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11/6/2012 8:46:00 PM
Madrigals on the move
Ann Gill

Coal City High School Madrigals are on the move to a new location.

After several years at the Early Childhood Center, the Madrigal troupe is moving its popular holiday feast to the high school.

"The facility layout suits our needs and provides us with additional space, it also allows us to set up earlier," said the group's co-director Celeste Sheridan.

Typically, the group has just one evening to transform an entire school gymnasium into a medieval castle. The directors, Sheridan and Sherfy Browning, say moving to the school's small gym will give them up to a week to prepare for the dinner that draws a large crowd each year.

Not only is there a new location, this year's Madrigal troupe features several new faces, a new show and an additional performance.

Instead of just two dinner shows, the group is adding a Friday evening performance and changing its Sunday afternoon meal to a tea.

The students and directors say they are excited about the changes that include the addition of seven new members. Joining the troupe this year are Holly Grizzle, Hannah Horn, Ashley Jezik, Wyatt Onsen, Miranda Starks, Michael Steffes and Kaitlyn Thayer.

On average about 30 kids try out and those not selected are offered an opportunity to work behind the scenes or serve at the dinner.

Returning members are Raegen Cavanaugh, Hope Connelly, Enzo Dreher, Jennifer Druse, Kat Druse, Andrew Elledge, Tristan Lehnert, Jackie McCollough, Carlos Shoemaker, Kevin Soto and Jon Vota.

Senior Charles Frese is also returning to reprise his role as king opposite the queen, Casey Zelko.

The royals will open the doors to the new castle for the 14th annual Madrigal dinner, "The Ring of Truth," on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 for tea.

The comedic play, written by Browning, tells the story of an unhappy king who manages to make everyone else around him unhappy. When a woman arrives with a ring that forces the wearer to tell the truth, Browning says, "all ridiculousness ensues."

The cast of characters includes a lawyer, politician, and a used weaponry salesman.

In addition to the play, the dinner features the performance of 15th and 16th century a cappella music.

The directors say the show is unlike any other high school performance, as the diner finds the students singing, dancing, acting, joking and interacting with the audience as they dine.

"It's a beautiful evening that sets the mood for the holiday season," Browning said.

"It's very magical," Sheridan added, noting the unique atmosphere, beautiful music and abundance of talent on display.

Madrigal members start rehearsals in August, meeting a couple of times a week. By the end of October they are meeting several nights a week to perfect the show.

Browning is amazed to watch the students from year to year as they develop in the program. At any time the singers can go into four-part harmony, and the director said that's not done just anywhere.

This year's shows will also feature performances by the high school brass ensemble and bell choir from Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church.

Tickets for the Madrigal dinner are $20 per adult and $15 per student or senior citizen. Admission includes the show, a plated dinner prepared by Lestina's Catering on Friday and Saturday and mugs of the troupe's famous wassail - a traditional beverage dating back to the 15th century. The Sunday afternoon tea, also prepared by Lestina's, will feature soup, sandwiches, relishes, pastries and scones with jam and cream.

Dinner tickets must be purchase by Nov. 30. To reserve a ticket for either the 7 p.m. performances or Sunday tea contact Browning at 815-634-2361 or Sheridan at 815-634-2287 ext. 2110. Tickets can also be obtained during regular business hours at the Unit #1 Administration Center, 100 S. Baima St.

In addition to the annual dinner, Madrigals will host their second annual alumni concert on Sunday, Dec. 16 at Coal City United Methodist Church. The event will begin at 3 p.m. and feature music performed by current members of the troupe and any alumni from the past 13 years. Alumni are asked to report to the church by 1 p.m. for a short rehearsal. Those coming to enjoy the music are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or cash donation to aid the less fortunate in the community. Refreshments will be served after the concert.

The troupe will also appear at several holiday events including Home for the Holidays in downtown Morris on Nov. 23, they will be out caroling in the community on Nov. 30 with stops at LaPiazza, Big Fish Grille, Rachetti's and Whistle Stop.

On Nov. 17 the group will perform at the Coal City Public Library and the Coal City Community Promfest Festival of Trees on Dec. 2.

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