It’s 7 p.m. and the Ferris High School gymnasium is looking fairly un-gymnasium-like.
A chorus line dances in the hall. A vinyl surface covers the middle of the gym floor – a way of providing “clickety-clackety” for tap dancing. A woman in a hot-pink wig and tutu walks past a man carrying a case of water bottles, who walks past a man holding a red Kool-Aid Man suit…
“It’s a wonderful lunacy,” says Tim Pearson, and he’s talking about all of it – everything that goes into the all-volunteer parent production Ham on Regal.
The annual production, which raises money for school activities and gobbles up the time and talents of hundreds of parents each year, is marking its 50th year. For the first time in a half-century, the show must go on without an auditorium, thanks to renovations at Ferris. So they’re making do with the makeshift.
“It’s quite a little production just getting our infrastructure set up so we can have a rehearsal,” Pearson said.
Ham on Regal is community theater in the deepest sense. Some 250 parents volunteer to do everything from writing the script to playing in the band to running the sound board to aping the “Gangnam Style” horsey dance. The production raises money for school activities. Last year it brought in more than $96,000; over its 50-year history, the event has raised more than $1.5 million, organizers say.
“It’s for the kids,” said Tom Kuuskvere, the head director and a “Hammie” for six years. “In addition to that, it’s the community you get with the parents of your kids’ friends. It’s invaluable that you know the parents of the kids your kids are hanging around with. And we have fun together.”
This year’s production is titled “The Regal Adventures – Project Blueprint,” and the story is built loosely around the 50-year history of Ferris and the current lack of an auditorium. The 15-scene play includes a lot of song and dance, a lot of goofy behavior and a ton of inside jokes about Spokane and pop culture references, from “The Wizard of Oz” to Nicki Minaj.
The play puts parents – most of whom haven’t gotten onto a stage or sung in public for a long time, if ever – into some challenging places.
“I play Angus Young from AC/DC in the play,” said Rick Harkins. “Dancing around like a madman.”
Does that come naturally?
“Not at all. It’s extremely out of my comfort zone,” he said. “It’s a blast.”
Production work and planning goes on all year, with some 50 separate committees overseeing different aspects. Kuuskvere says that strict organization is part of what keeps the Ham rolling year after year.
“It’s such a … I don’t know if machine’s the right word, but it would be really hard to stop it now,” he said.
The history of Ham on Regal tracks the history of Ferris, which opened in 1963. That first fall, parents put on a variety show – billed as a “Star-Studded Hootenanny” with a $1 ticket price – to raise money and start a tradition. After several years as a variety show, Ham on Regal evolved toward what it is today: an original musical production, full of song and dance and silliness.
Over the years, the production has employed a healthy – or perhaps relentless – barrage of puns. The 1980 show was “Hamalot.” In 1995 it was “Jurassic Pork.” In 1998 came “Phantham of the Oscars.” Last year, it was “Ham Times at Ferris High.”
This year’s production is barreling down the tracks. The first full dress rehearsal is Sunday, and performances start April 21.
Before Wednesday night’s rehearsal, the heads of various committees gave updates to the bleachers full of parents, discussing ticket sales, performance logistics and details down to the handling of the mascara.
From the microphones to learning lines and dance steps to selling raffle tickets, Ham on Regal is a massive production.
“It’s a barn-raising, in some regards,” Pearson said. “We’re building something.”