COEUR d'ALENE - As youngsters sang and danced and practiced their lines, video screens hanging from the sides of the stage at the Kroc Center in Coeur d'Alene counted down the minutes to showtime.
It's all part of Play in a Day, an annual Christmas break tradition that brings kids, ages 10 to 18, together to audition, memorize, rehearse and perform a musical production within 24 hours. The show goes on before a paying audience, and this year's performance was about to hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
With less than four hours to showtime, in a backstage hallway, Jadon Remington, 17, of Coeur d'Alene, worked on memorizing the lyrics to a song by his character, Captain Hook. Kalla Mort, a Post Falls 17-year-old, helped Remington.
"Don't pace," Mort said. "If you pace while you sing, you'll do it on stage. It's memory."
Play in a Day, in its fourth year, is hosted by Christian Youth Theater-North Idaho and Chillbucket Productions. This year's play, "Villain Idol," is a storybook version of television's "American Idol." Roles played by the show's large cast include Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Pinnochio, and a host of the not-so-well-behaved characters who often create trouble in children's stories.
The "Idol" competition is by the villains, and the princesses and "good" storybook characters are the judges.
True to "American Idol" tradition, the competition gets some help from the media. The show includes a troupe of singing and dancing journalists described as "a cast of the finest news reporters throughout the land."
Jacob Croyle, 15, cast in the role of Jafar, the villain from "Alladin," is participating in Play in a Day for the third year.
When the reporters approach Jafar and Captain Hook at their homes, to see if the villains are going to compete, the villains end up on talking to each other on the phone.
"You know you're going to get beat, right?" says Croyle as Jafar, to Remington's Captain Hook.
Croyle said he keeps coming back each year because it's fun and the people he meets and works with are "awesome."
Another bonus, Croyle said, is that it's also free for the young performers who participate.
Funds raised through ticket sales go to CYT-North Idaho. The youth theater produces several stage musicals each year at the Kroc Center.
This year's show attracted 118 hopefuls to auditions on Wednesday.
"Before that even happened, we had 20 people signed up by the crew," said Bliss Lanier, CYT-North Idaho's executive director.
Although the show does raise money for the youth theater organization, Lanier said it's also a way for CYT-North Idaho to give something back to a community that has been overwhelmingly supportive.
"We love to be able to do this, expose kids to live theater," Lanier said.
The timeline for the Play in a Day began Wednesday with auditions. Casting took place between 6 and 7 p.m. After a cast meeting until 8:30 p.m., the performers went home to memorize their lines. The production crew worked overnight, pulling together the set, props and costumes. The actors were expected back at the Kroc Center at 7 a.m. for 12 hours of blocking, choreography, musical work, and rehearsals.
Tickets were $10 if purchased online, cytnorthidaho.org, or $15 at the door.