The H20 Show

As the winter months begin, the days ahead can seem dreary and dark. Snow begins to pile on the roads, and the clouds block out the sun, eliminating any thoughts of the glories of summer. Eastern Oregon University strives to make campus a safe and exciting  environment for its students during these months. The school hosts a myriad of  festive events including cookie decorating, skiing excursions, and of course, the EOU Choir Show. This show is a two – day extravaganza starring students, faculty, and other performing arts enthusiasts. It is a shining light in the darkness of our community. Everyone involved works so hard to bring this fun into our lives, and the result is an amazing show.

As a music student and lover of the performing arts, I have found great joy in participating in all productions of the EOU Chamber Choir, but especially this show. Being thrust into school and church choirs as a child, I began to find a love for making music with my voice. Disney was my great inspiration, and I firmly believed that I was a princess at heart with super powers to speak to animals through my songs. My family and friends would soon be graced with my little voice screeching through the halls until I could figure out how to use it. As I grew, music became an escape and comfort to me, and it earned a special place in my heart. With much encouragement from my family, especially my mother, I grew to completely fall in love with music.

High school was a tough time for me, and I used music as a getaway from the world. Greatly motivated by my high school choir experience to pursue music into my collegiate experience, I joined EOU’s music program, which played a role in my decision for school. Ever since starting my program here, I have found a support system, a hobby I lose myself in and a family of loving people who encourage me to do what I love. Being part of Eastern’s music program has helped me to find who I am again and find something that brings me joy. The yearly production is a huge part of that, giving me something to look forward to every year. 

The creator and director of this winter extravaganza is none other than Dr. Peter Wordleman. Dr. Wordleman is an esteemed professor on campus and has been putting on a new show every winter for the past 15 years. Before starting the tradition officially,  he dabbled for a bit before finally landing on the Beatles theme. Dr. Wordleman says that he started doing them in January because it was a bright spot in the dreariness of winter. After the first few, the community expressed their real love and support for the shows, and so the tradition has continued on.

Today, Red Cross Drugs is the official sponsor of the show which allows the music department to hire a choreographer, have the beautiful sets, lights, and costumes that make the show so memorable. 

When asked why he chose the water theme, Prof. Wordleman replied “Usually I test out several themes and at one point it was going to be Natural Disasters,  but then I thought that ‘The H2O Show’ sounded really cute”. He says that the songs are always from different ages and genres to appeal to every person in the crowd.  He says that he personally likes that the audience doesn’t know what the songs will be until the night of in order to build the anticipation. 

And of course, Dr. Wordleman is first and foremost an educator. The show is also a good learning experience for all the performers to expand their comfort zone and sing in front of a big audience. To advance this learning experience, Dr. Worldeman says, “everyone gets a solo, and the crowd is always very supportive of everyone.”

The theme of this year’s extravaganza is just as the name suggests, water. Every piece is meticulously handpicked by the choir director Peter Wordleman to fit the theme. The choreographer, Michelle Benton, beautifully pulls aspects from the songs and into the dance, bringing the entire show together. The fluidity between the literature and the dance moves create a show that is a must watch! The show will be full of  laughter, fun, and maybe even a few tears. 

The whole show is brought together by our brilliant choreographer, Michelle Benton. When asked how she comes up with what dance moves to use, she says that she listens to the music several times to get the feel of each piece. She states that she likes to go “big picture to little details” to bring everything together. When it comes to the specific choreography, Benton wants to go by what the music calls for – flowy, wavy, but not to a point where certain moves are overused and “gimmicky.” 

Being a  frequent visitor of La Grande and a long time dance enthusiast, Benton was asked to be part of a choreographer team for the show in 2018. She found her love of dance at a young age and then started training more enthusiastically in highschool. Eventually in 2016,  she got a job dancing at Disneyland and then became a parade choreographer there in 2017. In past years, she has been staging the scene for the annual show with a partner, but this year she has taken on the challenge alone. She says this year is more stressful than past years, but it is a great opportunity to be creative with all different types of music. 

An addition to this team this year is EOU Alumna, Xiola Ray Durrell, is the main costume designer. Starting to help with the show since her days as a music student, Durrell has always been an active participant in the yearly choir show tradition. This year, she has taken on a more active role in creating a beautiful picture through extravagant and detail-oriented costumes. Durrell states that she “wants to make it so that when you go out on stage, you love how you look and feel” When asked how the water theme would be incorporated into the visuals, she said that she would be using a lot of blues, greens, and purples and that some of the costumes would be heavily into the flowingness and ruffles. She has been an excellent addition to the team and really makes the picture come together.

As part of the rehearsal process, the performers are either mainly dancers or mainly singers. Dancers rehearse two hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks leading up to the show, as well as an hour in class with everyone for learning the literature. Rehearsal is an intense process, pushing all those who choose to do it to their limits. 

During show week, everyone meets an extra three  hours a day to finalize all of the sequences and costume changes, and every member meets for a three hour sitzprobe, a rehearsal with the singers and orchestra to integrate these two groups into a single focus, to go over all the music. At the end of it all, every member is exhausted from all of their hard work just in time for college midterm exams.  But exhausting as it all is, it is extremely rewarding, and I would choose to do it over and over again every year. 

This year’s show is set to take place on February 2nd and 3rd. There will be three showtimes, so if one day sells out, don’t worry there will be more opportunities! On Friday the 2nd there will be one show at 7:30 pm. Saturday the 3rd will have two more showtimes at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online at and are selling fast! Tickets are for $10 a person, $8 for students and $7 a person for groups of 10 or more. The choir show is the event of the year here at EOU, and the theater sells out every year! Come and enjoy the high-energy water-themed choreographed performance for all ages!

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