At the end of the 2011-12 school year, Debra Larson will have spent 33 years in education at Lincoln HI in Ivanhoe. While Larson officially retires in May, a final musical - "A Tribute to You and Broadway Too" - is taking place this week in honor of all her years of service.
Since 1985, Larson has directed 13 musicals, one every other year. While previous shows have balanced musical performances with acting, this year's version involves more singing than acting.
"I did not want to do a full-fledged musical this year," Larson said. "The seniors asked if I would consider letting them do songs from other musicals I've done."
In her debut show, Larson directed "Bye Bye Birdie." Along with snippets of other past shows she's directed, a "Bye Bye Birdie" song will be presented at this year's musical.
"We're just having fun with songs we've done in the past," Larson said. "We're just reminiscing. I found an awesome updated version of 'Telephone Hour.' We've made it fun."
Approximately 40 students will take the stage, Larson said, in addition to a handful of backstage members. Many of those students have parents who were also taught or directed by Larson.
"I have 75 kids now that I've taught their parents," Larson said. "Many were in these musicals."
Larson had all the cast pictures re-framed. They now hang on the wall between the commons area and the gymnasium at Lincoln HI. She's also put together photo albums of past shows.
"Many of their parents' pictures are up on the wall," Larson said. "They'll say, 'hey look, my dad has hair.'"
In addition to the photo albums that will be put out for alumni to see, Larson said a quilt - made from the T-shirts she accumulated from past musicals - will be on display during the tribute performances.
"It's about reminiscing with the old stuff," Larson said. "My daughter, son, husband and mom ordered a quilt with all my T-shirts over the years. A lot of the students have enjoyed looking at the past stuff."
Songs from "The Music Man," "Little Abner," "How to Succeed in Business" and "Alice in Wonderland" will also be performed during the shows, which begin today, followed by performances on Friday and Saturday, all at 8 p.m. in the high school gymnasium in Ivanhoe.
"It's been a long ride, but it's been fun," Larson said of her musical-directing and teaching career.