Dover High School's ready for its annual spring musical, which this year is the comic book-based "Lil' Abner." A new director, diverse cast, and humorous story should keep audiences engaged in the production, which opens Thursday, March 25.


Dover High School singers, dancers and actors are getting ready for their annual spring musical. This year they’re traveling to the backwoods town of Dogpatch in “Li’l Abner,” and bringing colorful characters like Daisy Mae, Li’l Abner, Earthquake McGoon and Mammy Yokum to life.

1 New to the scene
Takara Hopps is a Dover native, but this is her first year at Dover High School. Hopps teaches 10th- and 11th-grade English as well as drama, and is getting the feel for her first stage show with the help of many seniors starring in the show. “I’m on a learning curve. It’s a huge learning curve,” Hopps said. It helps that she has known some of the kids for yeas. “I’m from Dover, so some of these kids I used to baby-sit.” Hopps is a Polytech graduate, where she performed with a traveling acting troupe. “I don’t remember it ever being this hard,” she said.

2 Synopsis
“Li’l Abner” is based on the comic strip by the late Al Capp. It focuses on Dogpatch, U.S.A., and its colorful inhabitants. It opens on a typical day in the tiny town, where drinking Kickapoo Joy Juice and wrangling a date for the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance are prime sources of entertainment. The title character is interrupted from another favorite pastime, fishing, and called to the town square only to find out that the government has deemed Dogpatch an unnecessary town. Which would make it the perfect place to start testing atomic weapons. The townsfolk find a solution in the form of Mammy Yokum’s Yokumberry tonic that they intend to sell to the government, but when General Bullmoose gets in the way everything gets twisted and confused. All of a sudden they’re back where they started, and the impending takeover of Dogpatch endangers the happiness of Daisy Mae, Li’l Abner and the rest of the townspeople.

3 A humorous look back
Hopps was hesitant about the show at first but came around after seeing it performed earlier this year at Glasgow High School, where she used to teach. Now she enjoys the humor, and thinks the audience will, too. The play makes the audience reflect on how society has changed, especially the role of women, since the show was developed in the 1950s, she said. For example, in Dogpatch, women are the aggressors on Sadie Hawkins Day and have to ask out a man — a bold idea at the time. “It’s complete satire,” she said. “It has a lot to say about our society today. The role of women, now we’re dibbling and dabbling in everything.”

4 Helping out
Hopps is getting a hand with the show from Dance/Visual and Performing Arts Gifted Program teacher Teresa Emmons and music teacher/Director of Choral Activities Bradley Whitenight.

5 What sets it apart
“Simple is better,” Hopps said. That’s the key. She said whereas other groups or schools might choose flashier fare, the simple story and music of “Li’l Abner” make it stand out.
The cast will make an impression, too, as it is much more diverse than the norm for this show. Hopps purposefully tried to get students who are not typically in the school’s theater productions involve, so there will still be some stage stalwarts on the boards, although some of the students will be first-timers.

Email Sarika Jagtiani at sarika.jagtiani@doverpost.com