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The show goes on: Centennial High School alumni return to perform musical canceled by pandemic in 2020

Some former students at Centennial High School had their musical canceled as the pandemic struck, but the students are returning to make sure the show goes on.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Picture this: it’s your senior year. You get a role in your high school musical. The cast, crew, and pit band practice for months. Then, just 24 hours before opening night the state shuts down, effectively canceling everything… including your musical.

That’s exactly what happened to students at Centennial High School in 2020. But now, two years later, the show will go on.

Centennial’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic when Gov. Mike DeWine issued a stay-at-home order to try and stop the transmission of the highly contagious virus.

“We all started getting texts from our principal saying Governor DeWine’s stay-at-home order is about to be enforced. You got to shut everything down,” recalls vocal music and modern band teacher Pam Welsh-Huggins.

That was just the beginning of the cancelations for the class of 2020.

“I was devastated,” said 2020 graduate Jalen Ruff. “We put a lot of work into it and then the night before opening night it got canceled.”

For students and teachers, the disappointment was palpable.

“Shock, disbelief and a lot of tears,” said Welsh-Huggins.

But now, a little more than two years later, the show will go on.

A great idea came to fruition this year when former students were invited to come back and finish what they had started. In all, 20 Centennial alumni returned to join current students and bring the lost production back to life.

“Being able to come back here and be creative and be with my old friends was definitely a surreal experience,” said 2021 graduate Ro Katsandoni. “I have jitters, I’m nervous, but I’m very excited for people to see it and it’s so much better than it was two years ago.”

In a way, coming back to perform gave closure to the alumni who lost so much of their high school experience to the pandemic.

“I think COVID left a lot of open doors that never got closed and a lot of moments that I missed. Just to come back and be able to do this production, it was something that I feel like I needed,” Ruff said.

It’s just as important for the teachers who were involved.

“The students who were seniors in 2020 didn’t get a graduation, they didn’t have their prom, they didn’t have this special show,” said Welsh-Huggins. “To be able to be a part of this form of redemption for them is really tremendous.”

Opening night is Thursday and performances run through Saturday. For information and ticket prices check out the school website here.

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