Renewing a longtime city tradition, Linsly School's annual music and dance show is returning to the stage of the Capitol Theatre in downtown Wheeling.
Linsly's 72nd annual Extravaganza performance, featuring the talent of students from grades 5-12, will take place on the Capitol stage at 8 p.m. Friday, March 5.
During the two-year closure of the Capitol Theatre, the 2008 and 2009 editions of the show were staged on the school campus in Wheeling. However, school officials and students alike are pleased that the hiatus was only temporary, and they are excited about returning to the big stage.
"We are so pleased to be back at the Capitol Theatre," said Kelly Soloninka, Linsly fine arts instructor and co-director of the Extravaganza. "Performing the show on the Capitol's historic stage has become a part of the Extravaganza tradition at Linsly, and we believe that this venue truly has an amazing impact on the overall audience experience as well."
For 44 consecutive years, Linsly's Extravaganza was performed on the stage of the Capitol. In 1963, the performance, once known as the Linsly Minstrel, was moved to the Capitol after having been staged in the Virginia Theatre (now demolished) from 1946 to 1963. Prior to that time, the show was held in the auditorium of Madison Elementary School on Wheeling Island from 1938-45.
In May 2007, when the facility then known as Capitol Music Hall closed its doors, directors of Linsly's Extravaganza knew that the school's 70-year tradition must continue. With a lot of ingenuity, hard work and creativity, the continued for two years at the Stifel Field House on Linsly's campus.
Despite two successful years of Extravaganza performances at the Stifel Field House, school officials said there was much anticipation to return to the tradition of performing on the stage of the Capitol Theatre.
Chad Barnett, Linsly's headmaster, commented, "The Extravaganza remains a celebration of our school community, not because there is a future Hall of Fame musician on the stage, although that has happened, but more importantly because everyone in the school makes the production a success."
Regarding the significance of having the opportunity to return to the downtown theater, Barnett said, "Wheeling is a proud city with a rich heritage, and two of the fixtures in the history of Wheeling are Linsly, which was founded in 1814 before West Virginia was even a state, and the Capitol Theatre, having first opened its doors in 1928. We are proud to continue the tradition of performing on the Capito's stage once again this year."
Frank Wilson, head of Linsly's fine arts department and co-director of the Extravaganza, said every student - from fifth graders to seniors - has a role to play in the annual production.
"Every year, I continue to be impressed with the level of commitment that our students demonstrate toward their performances," Wilson said. "They take their practices seriously, they show up every day after school and work really hard, and the end result is truly a professional product that showcases the individual talent of our kids."
Greta Foose, longtime choreographer of the show, saidd that this year's opening act will feature "a mystical theme with a kaleidoscope of color, flowing silk scarves, magical creatures and many other unexpected surprises."
Organizers said that audience members can expect to see some traditional "favorite" acts such as the "Happy Whistlers" and, of course, the Senior Act which is always emotional as the seniors take the stage for their final Extravaganza performance.
Acts for Lower School students (grades 5-8) will include several new surprises. examples of all styles of music and dance will be highlighted throughout the show. The diverse selection of music will include oldies such as "'Rockin' Robin" and the Willie Nelson classic, "On the Road Again."
The production involves participation from every student, faculty and staff member in some capacity - whether it is performing on stage, selling tickets, helping with makeup or seting up the stage.
For more information about the Linsly Extravaganza, call the school, 304-233-1436.