This real scene, filmed in December at Bethel Christian Reformed Church, opens the production of “Emma: A Pop Musical” by Lynden Christian High School students. (Courtesy photo/Becky Van Hofwegen)

‘Emma’ new pop version pushed acting and editing creativity

LYNDEN ­— Adjusting to the circumstances, Lynden Christian High School is still producing a musical this February. It’s just presented a little differently than if everything were normal.

The production is “Emma,” an all-new modern musical retelling of the classic Jane Austen novel. It features hit female pop songs from the last 50 years.

The story is of Emma, a senior at Highbury Prep, who is certain she knows what’s best for her classmates’ love lives and is determined to find the perfect boyfriend for shy sophomore Harriet by the end of the school year. But will Emma’s relentless matchmaking get in the way of finding her own happiness?

“Emma: A Pop Musical” will be streamed through ShowShare on the Friday and Saturday of three consecutive weekends, Feb. 12-13, 19-20 and 26-27.

Sarah Hoekema, on the marketing team, said tickets are not being sold as would be normal, but instead shows are free and donations are being accepted instead. The school webpage at contains information related to that. To watch the musical, it’s only necessary to create an account.

“Emma” involves 33 LCHS students, 18 as actors and 15 in production. Kali VanDalen is the lead character. Abby Rhoads is Harriet, Peyton Ogle is Jeff, James Dick is Frankie, Mercedes Young is Jane, and Judah Bouma is Philip/Martin.

In the musical, a wedding was planned by Emma, playing matchmaker with two teachers. This scene starts out the show and introduces Emma. For that introduction, an actual wedding scene was filmed at Bethel Christian Reformed Church of Lynden in early December. 

“This was not the musical we had originally picked out for this year,” said director Allison Ross by email. “Indeed, not even the second choice, but the third! While there are already many factors that go into show selection, this year we needed to consider COVID safety protocols including the capability and permission to film each actor remotely and to stream it to an audience in their homes rather than gathering 600 people in the Worship and Fine Arts Center six times!

“Students and adult leaders worked very hard this year to be creative, flexible and extremely dedicated to this process. Everyone learned new skills, communicated in new ways and gave each other (and themselves) grace as we navigated this new territory together.”

“In times of crisis, artists get to work,” Ross continued. “Some make new work to speak to our times, and others embrace the process to engage the strength of community and storytelling. We need theatre to find comfort, but also be confronted to walk in someone else’s shoes — to develop and deepen our compassion for ourselves and for the world.”

The process began with recording all the music. Each actor learned and recorded his or her parts individually. These recordings were then sent to student sound engineers who mixed them to create the soundtrack. Then, after learning choreography, each actor had to lip-sync to their own voice while performing for the camera. These video tracks were sent to the student film editors for editing each video together into what the viewer sees in the final production.

Ross said scenes were recorded live on Zoom so that actors could play off of each other while recording themselves on another device. Editors used a unified “clap” at the beginning of each scene to line up each individual video. “We did a few safe in-person shoots that are quite fun as well!”

Once a ticket is purchased, you can watch the show at any time on any of the performance dates for as many times as you want.

In a typical year, it can cost $10,000-15,000 or more to produce a musical. This year, costs were kept to just over $5,000. Donations will help support future theatre at LCHS.

For live performances, tickets are $7 for students and seniors and $12 for adults per show.