The Ketchikan High School Drama Kings are bringing a bit of Christmas cheer to the stage this week with the drama club's first production of the school year, "Elf."

A cast of more than 20 students are setting the holiday favorite to music under the guidance of Tommy Varela-Kossak, Kayhi's new drama teacher and theater club advisor.

During a recent interview with the Daily News, Varela-Kossak, a 2015 Kayhi graduate, said that there's always several options when it comes to what show the club should tackle for a production.

"Elf" was a standout for his first directorial debut.

"I didn't know what students we had," Varela-Kossak said about meeting the students in the group. "I didn't know what sorts of talents we had. I was looking for a show that I knew everyone would be excited about and that ... most importantly, the community would be excited about.

"I was a firm believer in doing theater, not for ourselves, but for others," he continued. "And our audience is, of course, the Ketchikan community. And then after looking at the calendar ... there was sort of this perfect opening in this middle of December spot to do a show. So, I figured 'Elf' was sort of a perfect thing that encapsulated all of those things."

The Kayhi Drama Kings are well-suited to the task of bringing "Elf" to the stage.

"This group is so energetic and passionate," Varela-Kossak said. "We have, I believe, 25 students in the production, acting in (the) production, as well as several students who have been involved in the tech side of things from the beginning. And this group is just dedicated to the art of theater and more importantly, to putting on a good show for friends and family and the people in this community (who) have been so gracious and helping us out. So it really was a good choice. It was the perfect choice for them."

The show is largely student-led, and features several freshmen and sophomore students being participating with more-experienced junior and senior performers.

The students have been preparing for opening night since September, and Varela-Kossak noted that the show isn't exactly the same as the holiday movie that many are familiar with.

"The play does such a great job at referencing the mood and those iconic lines and moments that everyone knows and loves," Varela-Kossak explained. "But what I think we're doing is we're bringing it home in a sense of rethinking it, and we're not trying to recreate the movie."

He continued, "so we're truthfully trying to recreate our own version of this story. And part of that has been that our students have been a part of every single aspect of the show. If they're not rehearsing a scene at practice, they are in the shop helping Ms. Cameo (McRoberts, technical director) with the set, and painting and building props and helping out with designing their own costumes and really bringing the show to life. So I think what's so special about 'Elf' is specifically how much involved with (it) the students have and how much ownership they feel over it, because it truthfully is a show that has been created and designed by them."

With less than a week until opening night — slated for Thursday — the Kayhi Drama Kings are in "crunch time," Varela-Kossak said.

"They're feeling a little bit nervous, but I think, I think their excitement is sort of outweighing their nerves," Varela-Kossak said of the cast.

It's also one of a small number of in-person school productions at Kayhi since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm expecting a lot of energy back into the auditorium and there hasn't been quite a situation like this in the last couple of years," he said. "So I'm expecting a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, um, and a whole lot of tinsel."

The show's cast list includes Cody Cragun as Buddy, Annie Paxton playing Jovie, Royce Walston taking on the role of Walter, Shay Ohmer portraying Emily, Oliver Wutzke as Michael, Jayden Garrett-Agee as Deb, Genevieve Shull playing the manager, Maverick Baum as Mr. Greenway, Jackson Hanis portraying Santa Claus, Makayla Harris playing Mrs. Claus, Kathryn Isner in the role of Matthews, and Melody Tucker in the role of Chadwick.

The ensemble includes Bethanne Tucker, Gemme Sablan, Elaine Etten, Lillian Primmer, Hannon Alkhabi, Jojo Robinson, Anastasia Hayes, Neila Urquhart, Kiera Shelton, Emery Min-Mattson, Quinn Patrick and Gabrielle Seward.

"Elf" debuts at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Kayhi auditorium. Additional performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are avaialble at