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Washington Voices

Ferris group hams it up

Organization has raised $1.2 million for programs since 1963

It’s Wednesday night and the men’s dance line is rehearsing on stage, but not a single member is wearing tights. Instead many are wearing washed-out dad jeans and Dockers. There are a few ball caps. One man is in athletic training pants.

It’s the night where the entire cast of this year’s Ham on Regal show goes on stage, all 250 of them, in a somewhat orderly fashion. The cast consists of Ferris High School parents and staff and they are getting ready for their biggest fundraiser of the year.

This year’s show is “LIFE Kinda Sorta” and it promises a variety of musical numbers – for the young and the old – performed by parents, teachers and staff at Ferris, following a script written by part of the cast.

“We really try to get music for everyone – for the parents and the kids alike,” said Susan Nielsen, a parent and publicity chair for Ham on Regal. “We listen to a lot of music and we have got to make sure the lyrics are family friendly. It’s a huge undertaking.”

Last year, Ham on Regal raised more than $70,000 that’s carefully distributed in support of programs and activities at the school, which otherwise aren’t covered by the school’s budget.

The production of Ham on Regal is a year-round commitment.

“Once this year’s show is done, we start script committee meetings in April,” said Nielsen. “The music committee starts meeting in May, and then the dance lines start picking their own numbers. By September we take it all to (local composer) William Berry who writes the band scores for us – he’s a genius.”

Lori Beaty is one of the people in charge of dressing everyone.

“It can be a challenge, but we try to come up with something that’s one-size-fits-all,” Beaty said. Cast members assemble their own costumes, which brings up other challenges.

“Not everyone knows how to sew,” Beaty said, “so we have sewing days, where we set up machines in the cafeteria and go all day, in an assembly line fashion.”

Beaty does have a clothing and textile degree – but when she’s not doing Ham on Regal she’s a high school teacher.

“I teach at Lewis and Clark,” she said, bursting out laughing.

Beaty co-chairs this year’s costume committee with Heidi Andrews and Mary Kunz-Johnson, also parents of Ferris students.

“It’s my fourth year being involved,” said Beaty. “The first year is just very overwhelming. You are learning dance steps and singing, and you are maybe scared of being on stage.”

Everyone gets a CD to take home and practice with.

“We really try for everyone to have a little part,” said Vicky Stinson, choral staging co-chair. “And it calms people down that they aren’t alone on stage – there was always someone else there. Then it just becomes fun.”

Nielsen said there are more than 300 parents and teachers involved in the show.

“We have bus drivers, CEOs, pharmacists, EMTs, and lots of doctors and nurses on stage at the same time,” said Nielsen. “It really is all kinds of people.”

That brings some challenges when it comes to teaching folks how to sing and dance, at the same time, but this Wednesday evening everyone is going at it in good spirits.

There’s hectic activity back and forth between the auditorium and dance lines rehearsing in the hallway. Chili is simmering in slow-cookers lined up on big tables.

“We always have food,” said Nielsen.

Since the first Ham on Regal in 1963 the show has raised more than $1.2 million to support the school.

“We couldn’t pull this off without the amazing committees we have,” said Karen Mansfield, one of this year’s show chairs. “They make all this possible and they make it all worthwhile.”