Dowagiac schools to host ‘The Nifty Fifties’

DOWAGIAC — Poodle skirts with twee-cardigans, black vinyl records and vintage-inspired diners complete with waitresses in pastel-colored uniforms are staples that pop into people’s minds when they think of the 1950s. Now, these symbols are being brought into the 21st Century through a play that looks back on the ‘50s through a candy-colored, nostalgic lens.

The Dowagiac Union High School Drama Department will host “The Nifty Fifties” as its 2018 musical. The musical will open this weekend at the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57072 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac, with showings at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Doors will open a half-hour prior to each show. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under, and children under the age of 3 are free. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door.

“The Nifty Fifties” is a spoof, comedy-musical about the 1950s. The plot takes place at a local diner where high school students are attempting to host their upcoming dance, despite resistance from some characters. One of the main characters must also find a performer for the dance.

Students from grades six to 12 will be acting in the play.

Though “The Nifty Fifties” is not as well-known as plays Dowagiac schools have put on in the past, Director Shane Oakley said that was a deliberate choice.

“With it being my first year, it was difficult for me to decide what I wanted to do. I didn’t know the kids, I didn’t know their skill levels or talent levels,” Oakley said. “I didn’t want to do a big name in my first year, because I didn’t know what would be fun or attainable [for student actors]. So, I wanted to do something more intermediate in skill level, so that way we could just focus on getting to know each other and putting on a successful show.”

So far, Oakley’s strategy seems to be working as both he and the student actors feel prepared for this weekend’s show, he said.

“We’ve been having so much fun, and I feel I have connected with the students really well, given that I don’t work with them in their buildings every day,” he said. “I feel that we have created a really good team, and that I have created a good environment for the kids to just have fun in the afternoon and showcase their talents.”

Despite the fact that “The Nifty Fifties” is a relatively unknown play, Oakley said that he believes people will still enjoy the show, largely due to the nostalgia factor of the performance, complete with period outfits and references.

“Doing something that goes back and brings back nostalgia from American history is what is going to make this special,” Oakley said. “It’s a lot of fun, and there are people who just enjoy anything that has to do with the 1950s. It was such a special time. We had new music and social changes going on. The way I see it, it was just a fun time to be alive.”

Oakley even said that the students, who are more than 50 years removed from the ‘50s, have gotten in on the fun of the era.

“I was worried about getting the kids interested in the play, but we didn’t have too many issues. The kids came ready to work,” he said. “As we have gone through this process, we have had to opportunity to discuss the importance behind what they are saying and what they are singing. They really absorbed that and used that to bring their characters to life.”

Both Oakley and the students involved in the play are hoping for a good community turnout this weekend, with Oakley saying that he believes everyone who turns up to the musical will have a good time.

“The kids have done a great job and I can’t wait for people to come see what they have been working on,” Oakley said.

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