Spotlight shines on Lincoln musical's cast

"Lincoln: The Life and Times" is a musical presentation of the life of Abraham Lincoln.  

Published in 1949 as a "Lincoln Songbook For Young America," and now out of print, permission was granted to use the music for community history presentations.

Director Brian Caraker has arranged this music to tell the Lincoln story as a part of the commemorative Civil War Weekend in Union County Feb. 10-12.

For more information about the weekend or to make reservations call 618-833-6525.

This week features a close-up look at the musical's cast.

Brian Caraker, the son on Bob and Betty Caraker, is a rural Anna native, who attended Lick Creek Elementary School and graduated from Anna-Jonesboro Community High School in 2003 where he excelled in music and theatre.  

He was a longtime 4-H member with a wide range of projects including animal science, livestock, poultry, public speaking, arts and theatre.

His advanced education includes Milliken University, Shawnee Community College and Southeastern Illinois College, where he has studied vocal and instrumental music, music theatre and performance.  

He has worked in Tennessee as a performer, but has now opened his own voice and drama studio located in Dongola.  His students, aged 6-16, come from five Southern Illinois counties.

Vanessa Holloway, Carbondale, sings the “role” of Mary Todd Lincoln.

Vanessa Hall Holloway is a graduate of Anna-Jonesboro Community High School, class of 1997, and is a graduate of Rhema Bible Training Center in Oklahoma.

Her special interests are her Christian faith, opera and theatre. She aspires to a career in worship and ministry and became interested in the Lincoln musical because she loves history and music.

Kevin Holloway, Carbondale, will appear as Abraham Lincoln as he delivers the Gettysburg Address.

He graduated from Rhema Bible Training Center and is now employed by Aisin Manufacturing in Marion.  

Kevin is interested in missionary work and has some experience working on a Navajo reservation.  

He says his wife persuaded him to be interested in the Lincoln musical.

Hillary Hines, Anna, is a graduate of Anna-Jonesboro Community High School and is currently an instructor in psychology at Rend Lake College.  

She was encouraged to sing and speak in the musical by director Caraker.

Jessica Hall, Carbondale, graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2006 in fine arts. She works now at Barnes & Noble Bookseller and looks forward to a career as an artist and illustrator.  

Her special interests are musical theatre, science and books, as well as hoop skirts.  She is a soloist in the musical.

Kristin Doty, Herrin, is a sophomore and honor student at Agape Christian High School in Marion.  

She hopes to become a professional performer and educate children in the fields of music and theatre. She “loves singing, acting and using my talents for God’s glory.”  

She is a student of Brian Caraker and reports that she welcomes the opportunity to be on stage at the Anna Arts Center.

Kristin is featured soloist and says, “This has been a wonderful experience, and I have really enjoyed getting to know the cast members.”

Amelia Blakely is an 8th grade student at Anna Junior High. She enjoys reading, volleyball and piano.  

She is thinking about being a teacher, or maybe opening a diner on Main Street in Anna.  

She has a special interest in the Lincoln musical because her grandmother participated in the same musical about 60 years ago.  

Amelia previously sang in the Lincoln musical in 2009 with her 5th grade class.

Julia Ellis is a 5th grade student at Jonesboro Elementary School. She participates in sports, plays piano and flute, and keeps busy on the farm.

She is a 4-Her with numerous projects including livestock. Her career plans include being a singer and an eye doctor.  

When asked how she became interested in the musical, she said she has always liked being in plays and her grandmother encouraged her. (Her grandmother is PAST council president, Linda Hileman.)

Her challenges with the play are like most of the performers: the hours, the memorizing, and working around school, sports and piano lessons.

Macy Shelton is from Thompsonville where she is a 4th grade student. She wants to be a pilot and a singer, and possibly a veterinarian.  

She loves “singing, playing softball, drawing and anything else fun."  

She got interested in the musical through her voice teacher, Brian Caraker, “and all the great people at the Anna Arts Center.”  

Macy joins Julia Ellis in a duet in the Lincoln musical.

Donna Sadler, Jonesboro, is about to retire from a career at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna.

Among her special interests are her family members (Brian Caraker is a nephew) and the Anna Arts Center. She is a dedicated member of the arts council and is devoted to seeing the Anna Arts Center thrive.  

She hopes to see more musicals and plays there in the future. She has helped with arrangements, set decoration, props, sewed costumes and sings in the chorus.

Betty Caraker retired from Choate Mental Health and plans to do more resting and caring for her dogs.  

She is Brian Caraker’s mother. She appreciates his dedication and acknowledges his patience as he directs.

She reports that being in the musical is a real challenge for her, but that Brian definitely makes it fun. She is an avid supporter of the Anna Arts Center.

Geraldine Llewellyn, Anna, is a retired CNA who enjoys spending time with her family and friends at church.  

She supports the success of the Anna Arts Center and enjoys being a part of the “ladies sewing circle” in the Lincoln musical.

Lennie Shelton is from Thompsonville, where she works in used car sales.  Her career is being “mommy manager” to daughter Macy, who is a voice student of Brian Caraker.  

She supports her daughter, director Caraker and the Lincoln musical. She and Macy travel many miles to be participants in the musical.

She enjoys joining the “ladies’ sewing circle” in the musical.

Barbara Bauer, Anna, is a PAST board member and a supporter of the Anna Arts Center.  

Her interest in history and music was nurtured by the 4-H program where she first heard and participated in the Lincoln musical 60 years ago.  

It is a “dream come true” to see it revived and presented in its entirety, especially to benefit PAST and the arts center.”  

She says, “I came as a props and costume person, and to support Brian. It has been an added pleasure to participate in this ‘fun’ learning experience.”

R.L. Pete Housman, Jonesboro, says, “When I grow up I want to be a playwright." His special interests are social justice, theatre, history, and promoting the arts and local tourism.

Not only is he a principle in the Lincoln musical, but he is concurrently appearing in The Stage Company production, “Inherit the Wind." He can always be counted on for help with props and set decoration.

Kenny Swink Jr., Jonesboro works in the Union County assessor’s office while he aspires to be a “full-time evangelist."  

His special interests are his church, family, “fishing” for people and supporting the Anna Arts Center.

He joined the cast of Lincoln because there was a need for men to sing.

Rob Doty is from Herrin, where he works for Mid Country Bank. The father of three reports he likes outdoor activities.  

However, in support of daughter Kristin, he joined the cast of the musical.  The greatest challenge is the drive to rehearsals and performances, but he reports that singing and speaking in the production is a lot of fun.

Timothy Jones lives in Anna but went to school in Dongola, at Shawnee and at SIU. He says he learned the most from the “school of life."  

He enjoys singing and speaking in the musical and really appreciates activities at the Anna Arts Center.  

Dakota Cummins, Dongola, is a student at Southeast Missouri State University with a career goal to work on the business side of the music industry.  

His special interests center on music and he uses his talents on the guitar and mandolin at the Anna Arts Center.  

He cites learning the songs as the biggest challenge of accompanying the Lincoln musical.

Bob Caraker, though not a cast member, is the number one set technician and back stage crew member.  

Bob is director Brian Caraker’s dad and is devoted to the success of the Anna Arts Center.  He is the activity director at the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna.

Lee Hackney, coordinator of the Civil War Weekend event, serves on both the PAST board and the Anna Arts Council.  

She moved from Florida to Anna about a year ago and has been immersed in community development activities from the time she arrived.

Lee Hackney says “You do not want to miss seeing this musical, 'Lincoln: The Life and Times.'"

Saturday evening at 6 p.m, ticketed guests ($15) will be welcomed to a Campfire Stew buffet and a full performance of the musical.

The presentation is “history set to music” and is suitable for school age children as well as adults. For reservations, call 833-6525.

Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. the exhibit contest winners will be announced, followed by the final performance of "Lincoln: The Life and Times" ($5). Forreservations call 833-6525.

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