Eastside students shine in ‘St. Louis’

Kristen Ronhovde (as Esther Smith) and Jonathan Backous (as John Truett) perform in International School’s production of “Meet Me In St. Louis.”  - Keegan Prosser, Bellevue Reporter
Kristen Ronhovde (as Esther Smith) and Jonathan Backous (as John Truett) perform in International School’s production of “Meet Me In St. Louis.”
— image credit: Keegan Prosser, Bellevue Reporter

Until a few months ago, Kristen Ronhovde’s mom had never heard her sing. It wasn’t necessarily something she was trying to hide. She’d just been busy doing other stuff - like painting, studying and going to school - and it kind of slipped her mind.

So what did Ronhovde mother do when she heard her 18-year-old daughter belting out show tunes while performing at a local senior center in December?

“She cried,” Ronhovde said.

This weekend, Ronhovde will be singing center stage, as Esther Smith, in International School’s production of “Meet Me In St. Louis.” The musical, which follows the Smith family as they anticipate the 1904 World’s Fair, opened last week.

Already known for it’s nationally-ranked academics, the International School drama program is also something to be reckoned with. Led by adviser Karen Gath McClain, the program puts on two productions each year, both of which are  double cast - for middle and high school. For “Meet Me in St. Louis,” McClain decided to combine the two age groups.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for the older kids to mentor the younger kids,” McClain said.

The result is a cast and crew of approximately 60 students, ranging in ages from 12 to 18, working together to make magic on stage.

Ronhovde said she participated in a number of musicals when she was younger, but has only participated in two productions at International. The high school senior decided to audition for the musical after hearing about the production - and watching the movie.

Unlike Ronhovde, International junior Jonathan Backous (who plays male lead John Truett), auditioned for the role without knowing anything about the show.

“I really had no idea what I was auditioning for,” Backous said.

A veteran of the International’s drama program, and president of the troupe, Backous has been doing shows at the school since eighth grade.

McClain said auditions for the musical took place back in September, and they’ve been working preparing since.

“We generally start in November,” McClain said. “But we needed more time because of all the dancing and singing.”

Because International is a smaller school, and because students have to go to play sports at other schools, McClain says the drama department brings all types of characters to the stage. Ronhovde and Backous agree.

“At other schools there’s like a ‘theater group,’” Backous said. “But here there are a lot of different types of people and grades, which is kind of unusual.”

And though the school is small, the camaraderie is evident - and the talent is over the moon.

See “Meet Me In St. Louis” Friday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 9 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets available at the door or in advance at International School, 445 128th Ave SE, Bellevue. Adults: $12/ Students and Seniors: $10.


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