It's almost a season within itself and a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. The high school spring musical season is set to begin and GO! Magazine presents a preview of the productions coming to the stage at area high schools.
BROWNSVILLE AREA HIGH SCHOOL
'In the Heights'
When: 7 p.m. March 3-5 and 2 p.m. March 6
Tickets: Reserve by calling 724-785-8200 or at the door.
A contemporary show with a variety of musical stylings including rap and salsa and a NYC Barrio setting has a diverse group of performers at Brownsville Area High School embracing "In the Heights."
"It's very socially relevant. The kids are crazy about the music and the story is resonating with them," said director Tricia Rohlf.
Washington Heights is a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.
The audience will spend three days "In the Heights," where they will meet Usnavi (Riley Higinbotham) the owner of a Bodegga in the Domincan-American community of Washington Heights. After his parents died, Usnavi was raised by the neighborhood matriarch Abuela Claudia (Kelsey Wolfe). Usnavi like most in 'the Heights' dreams of leaving, he longs to return to his native Dominican Republic. Usnavi falls for the lovely Vanessa (Sarah Sproul), a financially struggling hair stylist who longs to escape her alcoholic mother and move out to an apartment downtown. Nina Rosario (Delaney Harvey) returns to the Heights after losing her scholarship at Stanford University and having to face her parents and give them the news that the only person in their family to go to college couldn't keep up with academics and two jobs. Nina falls for Benny (Lenny Michaux) the only non-Latino person in the neighborhood, which Nina will also have to explain to her traditional Puerto Rican family.
"The message is about a lot of people in New York City that long to get out of their corner of the world, but they find out the grass isn't always greener and they want to be their people and in their corner of the world," said Rohlf. "We are pushing a lot of envelopes in this show. I think it will be widely accepted by so many people. You see this bi-racial couple through the eyes of the parents and the couple as well. It's like a modern day 'Fiddler on the Roof.'"
"In the Heights" features music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Broadway's trending composer whose latest off-Broadway musical "Hamilton" is about to be Great Way's hottest ticket. "In the Heights" was the winner of 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.
"It's very unique, because obviously the rap and hip hop are present but there's also Latin and Salsa and Merengue which is unique to the area to present this musical but it's also unique for me as a musician to play," said Musical Director Kevin Milliken.
Presenting a musical in a district where there is no music program also presents its share of challenges in teaching students music in a short period of time but Milliken said the 'Heights' cast has quickly absorbed the lesson and they are eager to learn.
Many of the cast members are newcomers to the stage, but artistic director Jonathan Rohlf explains the attraction is in the music and the message.
"For people who aren't into theater, this is a great through way. It's 90s hip hop and rap and it appealed to many people. The sentiment value in this show is very high. The cast as taken it and run with it. This is leading them to other shows. And the message is especially poignant for today and speaks to what it feels like to be an immigrant coming to a country where the language and culture is different," he said.
JEFFERSON-MORGAN HIGH SCHOOL
'Shrek The Musical'
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 25, 26 and 1 p.m. Feb. 27
Tickets: Available at the door
For a whirlwind trip from a swamp to a far-away land and to a dragon-guarded castle, join the cast and crew of Jefferson-Morgan High School’s spring production of “Shrek The Musical” Feb. 25-27.
Director Scot Moore said this is the first large-scale, full-blown musical they’ve done at the high school in a long time -- something the students are excited about, he said.
“We have quite a group of students here. If nothing else, we’re having a great time with this show,” Moore said.
The high school normally does older comedies or shorter skits, but the students began looking through musical possibilities and came across the animated ogre and his wayward journey.
“Nobody around here has done this show, it’s fairly new. There’s nothing wrong with the old-time musicals, but this is something new and fresh, and a lot of people haven’t seen it,” Moore said.
Similar to the film, the tale follows Shrek (Cory Tretinik) with his pal Donkey (Peyton Knoble) as they wade through a pool of fairytale friends led by Gingy (Jamie Lawrence) to rescue the red-haired, feisty Fiona (Katrine Schmolke), who is hiding a secret of her own. Along the way, they’ll have to avoid the scheming plans on the short-tempered Lord Farquaad (Eli Rafail).
Being their first full-blown musical in several years has brought on a few challenges, Moore said.
“Before, all we had to worry about was a few sound effects. But this time, we’ve got a whole bunch of added details,” Moore said.
“But it’s worth it. The script is great, and there’s a lot of humor within the music,” he said. “The audience is really going to enjoy it.”
BELLE VERNON AREA HIGH SCHOOL
When: 7:30 p.m. March 3-5 and 2:30 p.m. March 6
Admission: $15 for adults and $5 for students
Tickets: 724-808-2500 ext. 2173 or bvabroadway.com
Belle Vernon Area High School will transport audience members into a winter wonderland during their performance of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" at 7:30 p.m. March 3-5 and 2:30 p.m. March 6.
"Well...we're doing Christmas in March. That's pretty unique," said director Michael Rozell. "It (the musical) is adapted from the beloved movie. They did a great job adapting it for the stage."
Rozell said there were many reasons as to why he choose this iconic show for this year's performance.
"The show was selected for many reasons. I wanted to highlight some of the outstanding students I have, yet also keep in mind that I have many ensemble members that enjoy performing as well," he said. "Additionally, I have many strong dancers. Knowing that this show has several primary characters, multiple large dances and a great part for ensemble members, it seemed like the perfect choice."
"White Christmas" tells the story of the comedy team Bob Wallace (Tyler Chiste) and Phil Davis (Greg Fedor) as they follow the sister act of Betty Haynes (Aubrey Cintron) and Judy Haynes (Allegra Ochs) to a ski lodge in Vermont. When they arrive, Wallace and Davis are reunited with their former army general, General Henry Waverly (Seth Truckenmiller) who they try to help bring business to his failing ski lodge.
According to Rozell, the highlights of this year's performance are attributed to the performers and choreography.
"The four principal characters (Bob, Phil, Betty and Judy); they are outstanding performers," he said. "Also, our choreography is top notch. The songs "I Love a Piano," "Blue Skies" and "Happy Holidays" have incredible choreography … including lots of tap dancing and Bob Fosse jazz style dancing."
CONNELLSVILLE AREA HIGH SCHOOL
'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' the musical
When: 7:30 p.m. March 3-5 and 2 p.m. March 6
Tickets: Box office (outside high school auditorium) open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
High-flying fun is the theme for Connellsville students when they bring to the stage the musical comedy "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" March 3-6.
"'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' is a fresh newer musical that hasn't been performed in the area. It's a high energy comedy with a lot of dancing and great vocals. It's a fun show," said musical director Michelle Harbaugh.
It's a musical adventure starring an out-of-this-world car that flies through the air and sails the seas. It all begins when eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts (Jordan Kosisko) sets about restoring an old race car from a scrap heap with the help of his children Jeremy (Courtney Crider) and Jemima (Andrea Mellinger). They soon discover the car has magical properties including the ability to float and take flight. Trouble occurs when the evil Baron Bomburst (Noah Allison) desires the magic car for himself. The family including Grandpa Potts (Johnny Crocetti) joins forces with Truly Scrumptious (Abbie Siecinski) for a series of sweet and not-so-sweet adventures.
The musical is based on the beloved 1968 film version based on a children's book by Ian Fleming.
Harbaugh is excited to bring this production to the stage and is thrilled this year's musical allows for districtwide involvement.
"One of the things that makes 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' special is it is about a flying car. Also, it not only has roles for high school students but also includes children's roles. Many of our Connellsville Elementary All Star Chorus members are participating this year," she said.
The very family-friendly show also offers stage performances and big dance numbers that make it memorable, according to Harbaugh.
"The music includes a variety of styles, and the story offers lots of laughs and something for all ages," she said. "The musical numbers include a catchy theme song; a Latin dance number --"The Bombie Samba;" two high energy dance numbers --"Toot Sweets" and "Me Ol' Bamboo;" two beautiful ballads -- "Hushaby Mountain" and "Lovely Lonely Man;" as well as "Chu Chi Face," "Posh," "You Two," and "Roses of Success."
RINGGOLD HIGH SCHOOL
Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Enchanted Cinderella'
When: 7 p.m. March 3, 4 and 2 p.m. March 5
Admission and tickets: $8 purchased before Feb. 29; $10 after Feb. 29 and at the door
Tickets: Sold at the high school box office Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Bringing to the stage all of the creatures of "Cinderella," the musical theater department at Ringgold High School will present an enchanted version of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
Ballet dancers will perform the parts of mice on stage allowing for a broader production in a show the department has been anxious to do, according to musical director Diane Ader.
"We try to do a fantasy musical every other year. We have been wanting to do this musical, but it's been difficult to obtain the rights due to the national tour. Thankfully this is our year," she said.
Based on the children's fairy tale by Charles Perrault, the stage musical tells the story of Cinderella (Alivia Cartwright) forced into a life of servitude after the death of her loving father by her cruel stepmother (Olivia Warner) and self-centered, self-involved stepsisters. Joy (Abigale Lewis) and Grace (Sydney Seese). Cinderella dreams of a better life and with the help of Fairy Godmother (Ava Krempasky) and those enchanted mice, Cinderella is transformed into a Princess, just in time to meet her Prince (Neil Hancock) at his ball. But at the stroke of midnight, Cinderella returns to her meager existence. The Prince declares his love for the girl who left behind the glass slipper, to the King (Jason Beck) and Queen (Michaela Pry), and sets out to find her.
"I love the love stories that are told in this show. Not just the Prince and Cinderella but the King and Queen as well, because their love story drives the prince to want to fall in love and not have an arranged marriage. And the love Cinderella had for her father is also an important part of the paradigm. Our characters do a good job of bringing that to life," said Ader.
The musical numbers include "My Own Little Corner," "Impossible; It's Impossible," "Ten Minutes Ago," "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful," "Stepsisters Lament" and "When You're Driving Through the Moonlight."
CHARLEROI AREA HIGH SCHOOL
"Alice @ Wonderland"
When: 7:30 p.m. March 4, 5 and 2 p.m. March 6
Tickets: Call high school office 724-483-3509 or at the door
Bringing Alice’s quirky, modernized journey to the stage this spring is the Charleroi High School with their production of “Alice @ Wonderland" at 7:30 p.m. on March 4-6.
The madness and fun that encompasses Alice’s journey to Wonderland in the classic tale by Lewis Carroll is heralded into the 21st century with new modern, digital twister. Now, Alice (Maddie Codeluppi) is texting and exploring social media while immersed in the wacky Wonderland.
Along the way, Alice will meet her familiar friends like the Mad Hatter (Jon Cinelli), the White Rabbit (Veronica Kovach) and the Caterpiller (Emmy Zajack). She’ll also encounter adversaries like the Queen of Hearts (Tori Beveridge) and the Chesire Cat (Alexa Robbins and Lexi Weber).
Under the direction of Missy Vitali and Stacie Cifrulak, the cast and crew will take the audience on a whirlwind adventure with all new songs and dialogue that compliment the Wonderland we all know and love.
“This is a show about a modern-day Alice, and the music reflects that, too. There’s a large variety,” Cifrulak said. “There’s elements of rap, salsa and Irish rock, and the kids absolutely love it.”
The production includes musical numbers like “We’re All Mad,” “Tea Time” and “Off With Her Head.”
Cifrulak said they chose the show because of its potential for character versatility -- many of the roles could be played by either a male or female student.
The casting, however, did provide a bit of a challenge, Cifrulak said.
“We had to get the kids to accept the fact that they’re not going to be human, or that they’ll have to be crazy,” she said. “Initially, everybody wants to be Alice, but there can be only one Alice. Now they have to embrace being a door, or an egg -- some inanimate object.”
“But once the kids embraced their characters, they had a lot of fun with them,” she added.
FRAZIER HIGH SCHOOL
'The Best of Broadway'
When: 6 p.m. March 4, 5
Tickets: Available for purchase at the door
Frazier High School students will have the opportunity to show their talents during this year's "The Best of Broadway" musical showcase 6 p.m. March 4 and 5.
"We have a limited number of participants this year. It was difficult to find a show with a small cast that fit our group," said director Vincent Rafail. "This gives many more people the opportunity to have a solo."
This year's approach really let the students have a lot of control of what they were performing, Rafail said.
"I am letting the students select their individual numbers (with guidance) so that everyone can show their unique talents. However, everyone must be able to participate as "back up" singers and dancers for their peers," said Rafail. "Students will be choreographing and directing their individual numbers."
According to Rafail, the students will be able to use experiences they have cultivated to help influence their performances.
"The seniors have done shows since middle school and have also had the opportunity to work with various performers, coaches and dramaturges from the Pittsburgh area. We have taken several trips to see productions as well," he said. "Hopefully this will influence their performance as well as allow them the ability to contribute to the creative (directing, choreography, etc.) of the show."
Highlighted in this year's performance are seniors Madison Ansell, Blair Elliott, Annika Erdely, Nicolena Girvin and Alex Marks.
The group will perform "Magic to Do" ("Pippin"), "All That Jazz" ("Chicago"), "Holding Out for a Hero" ("Footloose"), "The Wizard and I" ("Wicked"), "Somewhere That's Green" ("Little Shop of Horrors"), "Don't Stop Believin'" ("Rock of Ages"), "Seasons of Love" ("Rent"), "These Palace Walls" ("Aladdin"), "There are Worse Things I Could Do" ("Grease"), "Working 9 to 5" ("9 to 5"), "Ease on Down the Road" ("The Wiz") and "You Can't Stop the Beat" ("Hairspray").
LAUREL HIGHLANDS HIGH SCHOOL
When: 7 p.m. March 10-12 and 2 p.m. March 13. (The Laurel Highlands Academic Foundation will host a dinner prior to the March 12 show.)
Admission: $12. Dinner and show packages are $25
Tickets: 724-437-4741 ext. 22003
The musical, which will be preformed in the high school auditorium, will offer the audience a new spin on a classic tale that is full of adventure, humor, romance and a little bit of magic.
“Because the show is currently touring, we are not permitted to advertise with the show’s title outside of school grounds or social media websites. You can find out the title of our show when you call our ticket hotline to reserve your seats," said director Lauren Groves.
This year's leads include seniors, Taylor Kodric, Hunter Lane, Alia Leonardo, Maggie Miller, Gino Mollica and Anna Strauser; junior, Emily Rohm; and sophomores, Ethan Glad and Donnie Strauser.
Nicole Bota will also serve as this year's assistant director.
More information about the performance can be found on the Laurel Highlands PAC Facebook page.
“I hope the audience takes away the valuable lessons learned through the show,” said Miller.
“I hope the audience leaves feeling the magic achieved by the long but rewarding hours spent rehearsing by the cast and crew," said Mollica.
MONESSEN HIGH SCHOOL
'The Addams Family'
When: 7 p.m. March 10, 11 and 4 p.m. March 12
Admission: $14 adults, $12 students, $10 children 10 and under
Practice your finger snaps and get ready for the creepy, kooky and altogether ooky musical "The Addams Family" on stage at Monessen High School March 10-12 from the high school-middle school performing arts department.
The 40-member cast and crew will present the musical comedy by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice based on the quirky characters of the iconic television sitcom created by Charles Addams with music and lyrics by Andrew Lipps.
Wednesday Addams (Milana Sacco), the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with Lucas (William Custodio), a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family — a man her parents have never met. And if that weren't upsetting enough, Wednesday confides in her father, Gomez (Charles Mrlak), and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez Addams must do something he's never done before — keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia (Ryan Jordan). But when Gomez, Morticia, Brother Pugslie (Quen Zboyovsky), Grand-mama (Andrea Kroll), Uncle Fester (Alex Tesznar), and Lurch (Albert Johnson), host a dinner party for Wednesday, her new beau and his family, things will never be the same.
"I think people can relate to each of the characters on some level. We all know someone in our family who is a little "kooky" and we love them for it," said Director-Producer Hilary Brown. "The center of the musical is two people from different family backgrounds falling in love and convincing their parents their relationship will survive."
In addition to its dark humor "The Addams Family" lends itself well to big choreography thanks to it's catchy music, which includes, "When You're an Addams," "Fester's Manifesto," "One Normal Night," "Live Before We Die" and "Crazier Than You" and many more.
"Everyone is familiar with the theme song from the 'Addams Family.' However, in the musical we only hear that during the overture. Some of our cast favorite songs from the show are: 'When You're an Addams,' 'One Normal Night,' 'What If,' and 'Death is Just Around the Corner,'" said Brown.
And as one might expect from the family Addams, the show has a few things up it's sleeve according to Brown.
"Some of our special effects are going to take people by surprise," she said.
UNIONTOWN AREA HIGH SCHOOL
Disney's 'The Little Mermaid'
When: 7 p.m. March 17-19
Tickets: Call high school office at 724-438-4501 or at the door
Join the cast of the Disney classic "The Little Mermaid" as they head under the sea on an exciting journey with a red-headed songstress on her quest to become part of their world at 7 p.m. on March 17-19.
The beloved Disney movie has been brought to life on the stage with Ariel (Abbey Rocks) as she explores the ocean with her sea-dwelling friends, including Sebastian (Emily Sharp). Follow Ariel as she falls in love with her Prince Eric (Alec Basile) and strives to become human with the evil, misconstrued help of Ursula (Ariel Ellington).
Well-known musical numbers like “Under the Sea,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Les Poissons” are peppered throughout the clever dialogue and humorous antics of her underwater friends.
Director Megan Cerullo said the cast has been energetic and thrilled to be a part of the musical they grew up watching.
“We wanted to do it last year, but it wasn’t available,” said Cerullo. “This year, we had such a strong group of girls that we wanted to showcase, we just knew we had to do it.”
The magical tale of family, longing and romance hasn’t come without its fair share of challenges though, according to Cerullo.
“The costumes have been a bit of a challenge,” she said. Though they were able to rent most of the costumes for the main characters, the mermaid costumes have been difficult to come by. “All of the rental stores and websites are out of them, and the material to have them custom made is expensive. We’re trying to figure those out now.”
It’s also been a challenge to make the set appear as though it’s underwater, relying mostly on clever lighting and shimmery material to achieve the aesthetic, she said.
“We’re excited for our show this year, and the kids are enjoying themselves,” she added.
ALBERT GALLATIN HIGH SCHOOL
'Wizard of Oz'
When: 7 p.m. March 18, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 19, and 3 p.m. March 20
Tickets: May be purchased in advance 5-7 p.m. Feb. 29 and March 2 in the high school auditorium lobby. The public will not be able to call the high school to order tickets.
Students in the Albert Gallatin School District will follow the Yellow Brick Road to an Emerald destination when they present "Wizard of Oz" March 18-20, a delightful choice that will feature students from elementary through high school.
"Every year we look at the kids we have and shows that would fit. There are shows that fit into our wheelhouse at AG, and 'Oz' is typical of the classic shows we like to do. It's loved by audiences and people of all ages," said Joe Andria, who is once again co-directing the show with Toby Maykuth.
Andria said 'Oz' presents an opportunity to involve students grades 2 through 5 in the production as Munchkins.
"Students from all six elementary schools will be taking part in the production," he said.
Dorothy Gale of Kansas (Maria Gresh), like so many girls her age, often dreams of what may lie over the rainbow. One day a tornado hits her home town and carries her away to Munchkinland - at the end of the rainbow where she discovers Glinda the Good Witch (Bailey Holt), a Scarecrow (Braden Fabrycki) who needs a brain, a Tinman (Alex Robba) who needs a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Dylan Berkshire) who needs courage. In order to help her new friends and find her way home, Dorothy and company must travel to the Emerald City to see the Wizard (Noah Hintz). But Dorothy makes an enemy along the way The Wicked Witch of the West (Sarah Campbell).
The stage production adapted based on the novel by L. Frank Baum features a well-known score that includes "Over the Rainbow," "Munchkinland," "If I Only Had A Brain," "If I Only Had A Heart," "If I Only Had the Nerve" and "We're Off to See the Wizard."
The stage production also features a scene not included in the 1939 film, "The Jitterbug."
"This is perhaps my favorite scene and the kids are enjoying it so much. Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion all dancing with Jitterbugs," said Andria.
GEIBEL CATHOLIC JUNIOR-SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL
When: 7 p.m. March 18-20 and 2 p.m. March 20
Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts, Uniontown: 724-439-1360
"Grease" will be the word when Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School performs this popular musical about high school life in 1959 this March.
"It is such a fun and energetic show and is perfect for the kids. Plus they know it and it makes it more fun for them to perform," said director Nick Bell. "I did the show as my first show at Geibel in 2000. It will be nice to see the differences from that show to this one!"
The musical is all about the trials of young love between the two main characters Sandy Dumbrowski (Carley Ward) and Danny Zuko (Joe Philippi) and the hijinks their groups of friends, the T-Birds and The Pink Ladies, get up to including Sandy's "frenemy" Betty Rizzo (Liz Camele).
While a lot of people know the story and some of the songs from "Grease," it is going to be the dancing that is a highlight of Geibel's performance.
"I believe that I have the best choreographer in the country in John Wagner. He truly is one-of-a-kind and relates to the kids well and challenges them with his choreography," said Bell. "Also, the songs are all well known, and the audience will find themselves singing along with my incredibly talented cast."
Bell also added that he hopes the audience enjoys the talented students at Geibel, and they have an enjoyable evening.
"The hard work the kids put in will be evident on stage," he said. "I hope they feed off of the energy on stage."
MOUNT PLEASANT AREA HIGH SCHOOL
When: 7 p.m. March 18 and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 19
Admission: $10 (advanced reserved), adult $7, student $3 at the door
Tickets: Call the high school office at 724-423-5100
The cast and crew of Mount Pleasant Area High School’s spring musical are channeling the 70s in their upcoming production of “Godspell" at 7 p.m. on March 18 and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 19.
The audience will be taken on a journey through the suburban streets to see the life and times of Jesus Christ, transplanted into the free-spirited times of the 1970s. Decked in denim and tie-dye, the students bring to life the Stephen Schwartz Broadway show, complete with riveting musical numbers like “Day by Day,” “Prepare Ye” and “By My Side.”
Follow the parables of Jesus Christ (Eric DeSabato) as he leads his followers and disciples through the book of Matthew, including the well-known roles of John The Baptist/Judas (Josh Kinneer) and Mary Magdalene (Layne Lueckert).
The show, co-directed by Rich Bair and Barb Rolla, was ultimately chosen because of its high energy and feel-good vibes, according to Bair.
“This show is about the life and times of a guy who lived and died and had an impact on the world,” Bair said. “The kids are really enjoying it and having a good time.”
"I've wanted to do this show for a long time," he added.
The simplistic set, consisting primarily of a platform and billboard, will serve as a throwback to the film and stage productions, as will the peace sign decor. And though the format of the show allows for artistic interpretation for various settings, Bair said they chose to keep it true to the folk rock vibe of the 70s.
“This is a different type of show with lots of pantomime,” Bair added. “But we had the largest group of kids try out for this show than we’ve ever had in the past. They’re really enjoying it.”
Check heraldstandard.com frequently for MustGO! Entertainment videos from area high school spring musical productions.