Fund-raiser to be held for Milford grad

Current and former drama queens and kings at Milford High School are gathering Aug. 11 to lend a helping hand to two old students they consider family.

Justin Rankin and the former miss Meredith Holbert were both known for the music they made on stage while attending Milford High School. Now married, the couple live in North Carolina, but the onset of colon cancer in Meredith, a 2001 graduate, has left the young couple reeling, said Sherry Rutter, the drama director at Milford High School.

“Meredith was one of the kids in my plays, and her husband Justin was also in my plays,” said Rutter. “We recently found out that she was diagnosed with colon cancer and is going through chemotherapy. She has a job that requires her to work 30 hours a week to keep benefits, which is hard for her to keep up with. Finances are hard for them. He’s in school so he may have to take a year off, so the idea came up the hold a musical benefit. We threw that around and people started jumping on board.”

The show, “Meredith’s Miracle Musical Extravaganza,” will feature a number of favorite broadway tunes as performed by members past and present of the Milford High School Drama Club. Complete with dancing, the show is hoped to bring in thousands of viewers at 8 p.m., Aug. 11, at the high school, to help Meredith struggle through the demands placed on her by her illness.

Rutter said that the idea began to grow after an initial e-mail to some past students spread like wildfire, resulting in dozens of volunteers to both perform or work behind the scenes. At the beginning, 150 show tunes were narrowed down to a more manageable number, and practice began in June.

An auction is also planned to generate more money for the couple, who are hoping to attend the event being held in their honor.

“If we sell out, we’ll at least raise $4,300 ($10 a ticket),” said Rutter. “That’s just ticket sales and not the auction. We’ve been rehearsing for five weeks, twice a week. We’re putting the time in and it’s all completely volunteer. A lot of the kids don’t know her at all, they just love to perform and know it’s a good cause.”

Additionally, Rutter said that custodial and maintenance staff at the schools have been volunteering to help with the project free of charge by cleaning up afterwards and putting up signs to promote the event. Both Justin and Meredith are well known, said Rutter, so she expects good crowds at the production. In all, she said, the drama program manages to do two to four productions a year.

“The program is about the kids, so if it’s successful it’s because of the kids,” said Rutter. “I just facilitate it, I’d like to say I have a bigger part. It’s their talent, and we’re usually pretty successful. We do a couple of productions a year.”

The show will include songs from various Broadway productions, including Rent, Wicked, Mamma Mia, Oliver, and Phantom of the Opera, amongst others.