CENTRAL CITY — Dane Christensen knows he’s where he needs to be.
Christensen, the vocal music teacher and musical director at Central City High School, is a Central City native. He’s been teaching at Central City for eight years. This weekend, he’ll get to watch his students flourish on stage for the “Beauty and the Beast” production, in what he hopes will be a memorable experience for them.
The musical is Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the performing arts center at Central City High School.
Christensen said what he’s looking forward to this musical production is to see which student surprises him the most with their performance.
“When I find the right kid and no one else knows what they can do, it’s really cool to show them off,” Christensen said.
He said “Beauty and the Beast” allows everyone to have specific roles. Even in the chorus, students have specific duties, such as being plates, a cheese grater, villagers and wolves.
“They’re more than just the chorus, which is kind of cool,” Christensen said. “The cast is essentially the crew, too.”
He said in the show are 22 ‘wolves,’ which he calls the wolf pack. Those students transition from playing wolves, villagers and the set crew who are responsible for all scene changes.
”They wear multiple hats,” Christensen said.
Christensen went to high school at Central City, then attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study music. He then was a student teacher at Grand Island Northwest while he subbed at Central City. He did his final teaching observation in his hometown before landing the job.
Being able to teach in Central City where he grew up is dear to Christensen.
“I just feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “I just know that it wouldn’t be the same anywhere else.”
Christensen said the community has helped a lot with the productions, especially this one.
“One thing that’s really nice that I have here in Central City that I don’t know that I’d have anywhere else is the community support,” Christensen said. “It was a matter of me sending a text message and I had 15 dads show up to put the set together, and they just knocked it out. That (the set, which is rented) in and of itself has been a beast.”
He said his two accompanists, Suzanne Philippi and Lori Supernaw, are big helps to him. Philippi, who used to be his music teacher, has been a mentor for him, he said. Hannah Beck, one of Christensen’s former students, is assistant director.
“She knows what I need before I need it,” he said.
Christensen said he’ll always be “Dane” to the community, so they’re not afraid to tell him what they think of something. The “Beauty and the Beast” production is special because it was done about 11 years ago, but in the old gymatorium. Now, it’ll be performed in the new facility.
“All through school, I fundraised for that facility, never knowing that I would be the first teacher to ever get to use it,” he said. The new performing arts facility opened the year Christensen started teaching at Central City. “So that was neat to kind of come full circle.”
Christensen said as the director, he also has to be the lighting designer, choreographer and many other things. Since the set is rented, he said this was the first year he didn’t have to be set designer, too.
He said his directing and teaching style is “very high energy and very passionate.”
“It’s easy for me to get kids to buy in because they can see how passionate I am,” Christensen said.
He said when he was a sophomore at Central City, he was selected to the Nebraska All-State chorus.
“I had never sang in a select group like that before and where everybody who was there wanted to be there and everybody who was there was really good,” Christensen said. “That’s when I decided to be a music teacher, because I thought if I could make an experience like that for someone else, that would make it worthwhile.”
Christensen said the best part of his job is working with students. He said he wants every opportunity they get in the music program to be a memorable one.
“The most rewarding part for me is seeing them on stage,” he said. “When they get to absorb all the applause that they get and all the praise that they get.”
Of the “Beauty and the Beast” cast and crew, Christensen said he’s excited to see them perform.
”This has been a very hard-working group and they’re all supportive of each other,” Christensen said.
Tickets for Central City’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” can be purchased at the Central City middle school office. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors.