QUINCY -- Danica Mosley worried at first that her latest turn on the Quincy High School stage might not carry the right accent.
The QHS senior couldn't talk country, but after weeks of rehearsal as lovestruck, ditzy Daisy Mae Scragg in the upcoming production of "Li'l Abner," that worry became a thing of the past.
"Now I don't have to think about it. I talk country all the time," Danica said.
Call it a side effect of spending time in Dogpatch USA, the setting for the musical in which the hillbilly citizens are preparing for the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race in which the gals catch their future husbands.
Dimwitted but lovable Abner Yokum, played by J.T. Atwood, is not excited to be tied down in marriage even though Daisy Mae has set her sights on him, but the town soon faces bigger problems when an evacuation order threatens its way of life, forcing residents to scurry to find something necessary about Dogpatch.
With themes such as greed and, of course, love, the musical, which had its debut on Broadway in 1956, still resonates with audiences.
"It's knowing what you love and fighting for it," said Adelle Seaman, who plays crotchety Mammy Yokum. "When the people of Dogpatch find out they're going to lose a lot of things they love about their town, they fight for their town. They fight super hard to protect it."
At the same time, the people of Dogpatch still know how to have fun -- another message for today's world and its multitude of serious issues. "There's a few parts in the show we reference real life things and make comic relief out of it," said Casey Cox, a junior playing multiple extras including one of Abner's best friends. "It doesn't always have to be serious."
The annual fall production showcases the talent of more than 150 students from the school's music, theater and art departments.
Mitchell Molidor plays Abner's father, and Andrew Arnold and Josef Lawler bring Marryin' Sam and Mayor Dawgmeat to life. Other cast members include Maurice Silas as Jack Phogbound, Emily Radkins as Dr. Ruth Ann Finsdale and Matt Winking as business tycoon General Bullmoose, with other leading roles played by Emma Dalke, Ava Miller, Julian MacKenzie and Ryan Schoaff.
"It's always fun seeing what you bring to the character, and after the show has been done for two months, realize what you took away," Atwood said. "You can have a whole bunch of stuff going on in your life and you hit the stage and you don't have time to think about it. It gets tiring, but it's one of the best feelings in the world, one of the most rewarding."
Along with familiar tunes like "Jubilation T. Cornpone," the production last presented at QHS in 1998 features rollicking dance numbers.
In "Fiddler on the Roof," last year's musical, "all you had to do was walk in a circle. This one is kicks, spins, jumps, leaps," Seaman said, and during one extended number, "You see the same person go through the curtains five times and back around."
Learning the dance routines has been the most difficult part of rehearsal, Cox said, but well worth the practice.
"It's nice to live the story that you can't live in your real life," he said. "It's just really great to do what we're doing."
Quincy High School presents "Li'l Abner" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 8 to 11, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Discounted tickets for senior citizens are $18 for the Wednesday and Thursday night performances only.
A spaghetti supper will be served before the Friday and Saturday night performances. Proceeds benefit music activities throughout the school year.
Tickets and more information are available by calling the QHS music department at 217-224-3774.