At North Kingstown High School, nobody finds the drama of the TV show “Glee” over-the-top. Not compared to the real-life challenges of preparing to present “West Side Story” later this winter. Besides the usual seasonal illnesses, rehearsals have been disrupted by several snow days and additional occa-sions when afterschool activities were cancelled due to bad weather.
“None of that is going to stop us from putting on the best high school musical you ever saw,” said di-rector Norma Caizza. “It's already so professional; you won't believe these are student performers.”
The production involves over one hundred students onstage, offstage, and in the orchestra pit.
“We're working very hard and putting in a lot of personal time,” says violinist Noah Jager, a junior. “We really enjoy what we do, even though the hours are long.”
“It's a full-time job,” says senior Matt Ricci, who plays one of the gang members. “Everyone's been putting in a team effort. We're really focusing on the acting this year, so there's a good mix of acting and music.”
“West Side Story,” the immortal legend of star-crossed lovers caught in a turf war of rival gangs, is known to be one of the most difficult musical theatre productions. Arthur Laurents' script stretches the actors' abilities from edgy hostility to tender love to violent grief.
Leonard Bernstein's award-winning score is full of dissonant chords, jarring harmonies, and jangling rhythms. As often happens, the talented teen musicians at N.K. who volunteered to play in the pit for this year's musical didn't exactly match the parts included in the score. Bernstein wrote several different violin parts but none for viola. Cleverly using thirty-day free trials of expensive musical software, three NK student violists transposed the entire score.
"They've had to practice at home a lot," says Gigi Edwards of her two daughters who are pit instru-mentalists. "They went through so many takes of 'I Feel Pretty' with the metronome. When it finally came together, it sounded so catchy I just wanted to get up and dance!"
As a triumphant story of love that transcends language, time, and place, "West Side Story" is exactly in tune with today's world. While Manhattan's west side rumbles with the clash of Jets and Sharks, Maria and Tony seek a "Somewhere" their romance can thrive. Stephen Sondheim's lyrics prove unfor-gettable whether reverent ("Maria . Say it soft and it's almost like praying") or cocky ("Gee, Officer Krupke---Krup you!"). This revolutionary work changed the course of the American musical when it debuted in 1957 with Jerome Robbins' choreography, and it still delights audiences today.
"All the townspeople should come," says retired middle and elementary school music teacher Patricia Petersen. "I have friends who don't have any kids or grandkids in the school, but they love to come to the musicals!"
"West Side Story" will be performed in the N.K. High School auditorium”
Friday, March 11 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 12 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 13 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 at the door, $10 in advance at the N.K. High School main office and at the N.K. Chamber of Commerce. Student tickets: $10 at the door with ID