Teacher by day, clogger by night

Published 2:38 pm Monday, April 11, 2011

Paige Barr's photo is up all over town.

Paige Barr’s photo is up all over town.

Along with several other familiar faces, including Sierra Teate, Morgan Gibson, Vicky Russell, April Lowery, Joni Thomas and Lori Nielsen, Barr’s smiling face appears on the colorful poster for the upcoming musical benefit performance “Putting On The Ritz.”

But not everyone has caught on yet.

“My dad (Reese Raybon of Raybon’s Grocery) knew I was in the show, but somehow he had completely overlooked the fact I was on that poster,” Barr laughs. “People were coming in the store and commenting about my picture on the poster on the front door and he had no idea! And I’ve only had one student comment that the lady on the brochure in my classroom ‘looked a lot like me.’ I just said, ‘Oh, do you think so?’ I haven’t told them yet I am doing this.”

Barr, a reading specialist at Greenville High School, is making her first appearance as one of the 40-plus Ritz Players who are going to be putting on another “really big show” April 28, 29 and 30 to benefit the Greenville Area Arts Council. The funds raised by the three musical performances will go to help pay the artistic fees for the professional productions brought to the Camellia City each GAAC season.

This year’s nostalgic theme revolves around hit television shows of the past, paying homage to luminaries like bandleader Lawrence Welk and impresario Ed Sullivan, with the entire second act devoted to the corn-fed comedy and country music of “Hee Haw.”

Barr, a veteran clogger, has attended several past Ritz Player performances in the past and even considered becoming a Ritz Player. “But I just never was ready to make that commitment,” she says.

And then Barr got a phone call from POTR director Nancy Idland.

“Nancy asked me to teach a clogging routine to a group of the Ritz Players for this year’s show. After attending a meeting and finding out more about the show, I just couldn’t resist. I decided to give it a try. And I have enjoyed every minute of it, too! ”

Not only will Barr be clogging, she will also perform as one of the legendary Lennon Sisters, long-time regulars on Welk’s show, and singing in several group numbers.

Even though she is juggling home, family, job and rehearsals, Barr says her customarily busy schedule means extra activities aren’t as much of an issue as one might expect.

“For a number of years, I performed with the Persimmon Creek Cloggers in the annual Red Garter Revue in Andalusia. I was so accustomed to making several trips to Andalusia with the cloggers, rehearsals right here in Greenville have been much easier,” Barr says.

She’s gotten strong support over the years for her clogging from husband Brett, Barr says. “And my daughter Lacey loves coming to rehearsals with me,” she adds.

In fact, it’s likely mother and daughter would be performing together, but Lacey will be singing on a different stage this spring.

“Lacey has already committed to this year’s Greenville High School Old Gym Players production, ‘Seussical: The Musical’ that’s scheduled for mid-May. I felt like it would be too much for her to try to appear in both productions,” Barr explains.

Barr picks up Lacey from her musical practice and “we head straight for the Ritz.”

Right now, she is putting in four to five hours of rehearsal each week, but anticipates that number increasing as the show dates get closer.

Part of that time is used working with the Ritz Players on the clogging number, and the rest spent on practicing singing numbers.

And some special friends will be joining her on stage.

“I am so pleased one of my long-time fellow cloggers, Kathy Kelsoe, and two of our newest cloggers, Crystal Parmer and Pam Sexton, have agreed to perform with us,” Barr says.

“They have been such great help in this crash course for our Ritz Players, who are doing a fabulous job! And I really appreciate Amanda Phillips of the Y letting us use a room there for practices. It’s great to have such strong community support for the show.”

And if you happen to be at Calico Fort this Sunday afternoon, be sure and check out the entertainment lineup to get a sneak preview of the clogging skills that will be displayed at the Ritz. The Dixie Stompers-featuring Barr-will be performing at the Fort that afternoon.

Barr won’t reveal the surprises of her favorite part of the show, the closing number (“You’ll just have to attend and find out”) but will say audience members just might have a Ritz Player sitting beside them in the theater for the big opening number to an uptempo pop  mega-hit.

A videographer has also been sighted around town filming in schools, businesses and offices in preparation for the multi-media blitz that will open this “really big show.”

“You just don’t know who might show up on screen before our show,” says Idland.

“It’s going to be a wonderful, exciting intro to our fifth annual production that will really involve our entire community. All I will say is-Youtube.”

The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. for each performance. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and are available in advance at The Pineapple downtown. Visit www.gaac-ritz.com for more information on tickets and sponsorship opportunities.