Last March, Tyler Jolivette was a small-time gambler by the name of Benny Southstreet. Now, Jolivette is Prince Dauntless, who desperately wants to get married — despite his mother’s objections.
Jolivette is thoroughly enjoying his transition from a singing gambler to a prince, who can also belt out a few songs. Musicals have become a way of life for the Northside High School junior who, two years ago, had little idea what a musical was.
“I’m just a performer at heart,” said Jolivette. “I like the crowd reaction. I like the dressing up. I like getting into character and performing.
“Basketball players know their avenue and performers know their avenue. This just happens to be mine.”
Jolivette is one of the returning actors performing in Northside’s presentation of the musical comedy, “Once Upon a Mattress,” Friday and Saturday at the NP Moss Auditorium. Advanced tickets are available at the school office.
Last year, Northside performed “Guys and Dolls,” the first musical in the school’s history. Performing arts were not even afterthoughts at Northside, which is considered an at-risk school with a low graduation rate and high number of dropouts.
But “Guys & Dolls” became a reality after music teacher Sarah Clavelle successfully applied for a $10,000 grant from the Junior League of Lafayette for 12 weeks of theater classes. Actors and staff from Christian Youth Theater, an after-school arts program, provided help.
This year’s production is no longer a class, but an after-school program. Several cast changes were made after actors were sidelined by work and other after-school commitments.
Clavelle said those who were able to stay have excelled beyond expectations.
“It’s part of teaching teens that responsibility of showing up and being there,” said Clavelle, co-director of this year’s play. “They might have to balance parents that have no idea of what they’re doing or why this is such a big deal. They might have to convince work that this is a big deal.
“If they’re providing a needed income for the household, that’s all part of the things they have to balance. They’re trying to figure out that the end result is worth all the hard work and frustration leading up to it.
“Just becoming a character, stepping outside of themselves is hard. So many have come to me and said, ‘I’ve really changed. I’m talking to people I’ve never talked to before.’ They’re recognizing qualities in themselves that I could have told them until I was blue in the face. They finally saw it for themselves and it’s more rewarding than anything they can do this weekend.”
Megan Broussard, who also co-directs the musical, said “Once Upon a Mattress” allows many students to showcase their skills.
"It’s got a lot jokes in it,” said Broussard. “There’s little moments where they can have fun with it. The music’s a little jazz, but at the same time from that medieval time period.
“There’s so many opportunities for them to talk or sing. There’s nine leads in it. So there’s more opportunities to showcase their talents.”