Prior to the start of fall play practices this year, most of the cast of Monticello High School’s "Get Smart" never knew the spy spoof saga was a television show some 40 years prior to the Steve Carell movie of 2008.
So the over-the-top humor took them a bit by surprise. That’s fair, considering the 1965 to 1970 TV rendition was created by "Blazing Saddles" writer and producer Mel Brooks.
As with all of his works, Brooks definitely has a way of dividing audiences.
"My grandpa watches it, and my grandma hates it," admitted Audra Heistand of the Don Adams/Barbara Feldon throwback when her relatives watch reruns of it on TV.
But the senior, who stars as Princess Ingrid of Scandinavia in this weekend’s MHS presentation, adds that it did not take long for the cast to catch on.
To use the words of Maxwell Smart – And. Loving it.
"Humor is humor. It’s funny. It took a little bit but not long," said Heistand.
"At first, I don’t think the students really got the humor," said Director Nicki Graham. "Once we explained it was a parody of spy films, the same way ‘Airplane’ was a parody of action/adventure films or the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise made fun of slasher films, they got it."
"Get Smart" is even too early for Graham to have seen when it originally aired, but she commented, "I can remember watching reruns and loving the over-the-top parody of the genre. When the updated movie version with Steve Carell came out in 2008, I fell in love with it all over again. After doing some searching, I realized there was a play version, and my decision was made!"
The MHS play is being presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 in the high school auditorium. Tickets will be available at the door starting an hour before to the performances.
The play follows CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart on a mission to stop KAOS in its attempt to blow up the Statue of Liberty. Nick Wolter plays Smart, an agent who often stumbles into trouble but somehow gets the job done. Playing his trusty – and usually more capable – sidekick Agent 99 is Katie LeJeune.
For the most part it is a quirky comedy, but Heistand is refreshed at the strict dichotomy between good and evil.
"I just like how there is a difference between good and evil, and how since the main evil spy is such a bad person, it makes him a good spy," she said.
"It’s a spy play, and spies are cool," adds Assistant Stage Manager Isabel Pellum.
The set is minimal for the production, but challenging due it being made up of large, rotating pieces being used on a somewhat small stage.
"Everything barely fits. We have to turn on the lights back there to make sure our fingers don’t get caught between the set pieces," said Pellum, currently a junior at Monticello High School.
In other words, her fingers missed it. By that. Much.
Participation from students outside of the thespian troop made the set possible, including design work by the high school architectural drafting class. First-year industrial technology instructor Brad Curry said it was a good, practical exercise for his students.
"When they got into scale drawings, where they have to fit things into eight feet it was a challenge. So for me, from the architectural drafting standpoint, it gives students a really good idea of scale and what they can actually fit into that space," said Curry.
Graham added that Student Director Maya Kaczor and Stage Manager Nick Timmons "have both been essential to the cast’s success. They have put in a lot of extra work to ensure the sound effects and many set changes go off without a hitch. Mrs. (Amy) Malone, my assistant director, and Mr. Curry, my set designer, have put in so many extra hours to make the sets, costumes, and props the best they can be."
The cast and crew
Director – Nicki Graham
Assistant director – Amy Malone
Set designer – Brad Curry
Student director – Maya Kaczor
Stage manager – Nick Timmons
Assistant stage manager – Isabel Pellum
Cast members – Nick Wolter, Ken Merriman, Preston Nowlin, Tommy Clifton, Payne Nowlin, Mateo Brunson, Drew Schlabach, Ben Keating, Aiden Olsen, Nicki Graham, Katie LeJeune, Audra Heistand, Annie Clifton, Piper King, Jami Matalonis, Grace O’Brien, Maggie Schlabach, Claire Keating, Sophie Rund, Alison Wiltgen, Haley Baker, Kaelan Olsen, Rin Culpepper, Olivia Ray, Sophie Happ, Emmie German, Grace Stapf, Kendall McFarlin, Avery Menacher, Kat Primmer, Haley Baker
Crew – Macy Vogt, Grace Bonds, Lisa Bialeschki, Ady Bradley, Bella Echols, Elaina Stranberg, Jessica Conatser, Emma King, Natalee Wanserski, Cam Davis, Hope Tenhouse, Drew Schlabach
Hairand makeup – Journey Bowlin, Ivy Ater, Abby King