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CONVAL

‘West Side Story’

ConVal Drama: Students take on the lyrics of  Edward MacDowell Medalist Stephen Sondheim

  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.
  • ConVal students will perform the classic musical "West Side Story" next week in the Lucy Hurlin Theater.

The familiar strains of “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere” will echo through ConVal High School’s Lucy Hurlin Theatre this week, when ConVal students perform the classic musical, “West Side Story.”

“This has always been one of my top five shows,” director Liz Halper said at a recent rehearsal. “I really wanted to do a show that attracts of lot of kids and we have 34 in the cast. They had all heard of ‘West Side Story’ and I think they’re one of the most excited casts I’ve ever had.”

The musical, which was written by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, retells the Romeo and Juliet story as a clash between the Sharks and the Jets, rival Puerto Rican and Polish-American street gangs in the 1950s. First produced on Broadway in 1957, the play drew acclaim not just for its music, but also for its focus on the racism and violence afflicting many American cities at the time.

The Broadway production was notable for its elaborate dances and fight scenes, choreographed originally by Jerome Robbins.

“Dancing is so critical to the telling of the story,” said Halper, who has enlisted local dancers Sarah Brown, Pati Cloutier and Rachel Moore to choreograph this production,

The dances involve everyone in the cast and are demanding, Brown said, but the students have been enthusiastic.

“They attacked it full on,” Brown said. “They were really excited to do it, which makes it a lot of fun.”

“The dances were intimidating,” said Dan Frehner of Peterborough, who plays Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. “We had a lot to learn. The fight scenes are really cool.”

Halper noted that a recent Broadway revival of the play, where all the Puerto Rican characters did their lines in Spanish, drew mixed reviews.

“We don’t go that far, but we’ve introduced a little Spanish — not a lot — into the songs,” she said. Halper brought in a Spanish-speaking acquaintance, Pati Wheeler, to work with the Sharks on their dialect.

Halper said the play has no profanity, but the language can be a bit strong at times.

“We all talked about it at the start of rehearsals,” she said. “Everyone felt it was an important part of the story.”

“At first, we felt uncomfortable with all the racial slurs,” said Arianna Zrzavy of Peterborough, who plays the role of Maria, the Puerto Rican girl who falls in love with Tony, one of the Jets. “We found it easier as we went on. We all got to know each other pretty well.”

Halper was also inspired to do a production of “West Side Story” after Sondheim was honored as this year’s Edward MacDowell medalist by the MacDowell Colony.

“I felt it would be a fitting tribute as well as a fun show to do,” she said.

She has two CDs of the original Broadway cast recording of the play, both autographed by Sondheim, that will be sold to raise funds for the school’s drama program. One will be raffled, with tickets being sold at each performance, and the other will be sold through a silent auction.

ConVal students performing in “West Side Story” are Emily Aucella, Jesse Edwards, Kyra Lloyd, Jill Pierson, Brianna Stevens and Michael Whitney, all of Antrim; Zoe Smith and Dillon Sullivan, both of Francestown; Sean Campbell, Aria Frehner, Lexi Williams and Somerset Young, all of Hancock; Ben Carne, Madeline Ciocci, Joshua Curran, Cassie Cutting, Tory Eichler, Daniel Frehner, Becket Gourlay, Ethan Gourlay, Courtney Hendrickson, Astrid Kipka, Kaylin Krslovic, Rebekah Loll, Marissa Lombardi, Liam McCall, Caroline Riffle, Kylie Roosa, Montana Schultz, Arianna Zrzavy, and Michael Zrzavy, all of Peterborough; John Sheridan and Valerie St. Amand, both of Temple, and Joshua Bartsch of Wilton. Adults in the cast are ConVal High School staff members Ken Cloutier and Gib West.

Performances will be tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Lucy Hurlin Theatre at ConVal High School. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students; they are available at the door or may be reserved by calling 924-3869.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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