by Lorie Lewis Ham
Details on how to win a pair of tickets to this show at the end of this post!
On March 15, the musical West Side Story hits the PAT stage at Reedley High School. This show is filled with great classic songs such as “Maria,” “Something’s Coming,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Tonight,” and “Somewhere.”
West Side Story is set in 1950s New York and portrays the racial tensions of the time through the stories of two teenage gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. This musical was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Tony, a member of the Jets, does the unthinkable when he falls in love with Maria, whose brother is the head of the Sharks. This musical explores themes of racism, elitism, along with a tragic love story–all set to incredible music.
When asked how he came to choose West Side Story, Kings Canyon Unified School District’s theatre arts coordinator Mark Norwood shared that he had originally selected Secret Garden as the RHS Spring Musical this year. “I was approached, respectfully, by a group of students who were very interested and excited about doing West Side Story. I feel strongly that the student’s sense of ownership of their program is important in terms of enriching their entire educational experience. I explained to them just how difficult a show West Side is and they assured me that they were up to the challenge.”
“The greatest challenge presented by West Side Story for any age group is the music and dancing,” continued Mark. “The lead roles are written for very high vocal ranges and transposing an entire orchestral score for all the instruments is just not an option. An argument could be made that West Side Story is as much a ballet as it is anything else. Much of the story is accented by interpretive dance. The cast is working extremely hard and rehearsals are productive.”
RHS senior Joseph Ham is tackling the role of Tony in this production and is excited to end his time involved with RHS drama on such a high note. “It’s an honor [to play Tony], and I’m incredibly grateful to our director Mr. Norwood for giving me the opportunity. It’s also a challenge, the music especially. I’m extremely sad that this is the last time I’ll get to take the stage at RHS, but I’m also glad I get to go out with such an incredible show.”
Junior Meg Clark is playing the role of Maria. “I’m very excited to be playing Maria, it’s challenging at times, but I have definitely grown as a performer through this role. This show is one of the most challenging and demanding shows I’ve ever been involved with, especially musically (but in a good way!). The music is intricate and beautiful, but difficult at times.”
Senior Bernadette Tasy is a newcomer to RHS drama and is excited to have her first and last role be in such a great show. “This show makes me wish I had been involved in more plays in the past, and this experience has definitely encouraged me to be involved in more community shows in the future. I play Rosalia, the Puerto Rican who doesn’t like life in America and wants to go back to Puerto Rico. She defends Puerto Rico while Anita defends America in the song ‘America.’ Samantha Sandoval, who plays Anita, has been one of my closest friends since pre-school, so it has been wonderful to work with her as her spicy amiga!”
The cast also includes many other familiar faces to the RHS stage such as D.J. Reimer, Skyler Quammen and Samantha Sandoval, along with many others, several of which have never been in a show before. One thing all of the students involved in this show agree on is their love of it. “I love everything about it,” shared Joseph. “The characters, the emotions, the music. It’s easily become one of my favorite musicals.”
This production will also have some adult cast members. RHS Choir Director Randy Lepp, who is the Vocal Director for the show, is also playing the role of Glad Hand. Taniman Clark and Chris Giese, of RCTC, are playing Officer Krupke and Lt. Schrank, respectively. Mark Norwood will be playing Doc.
West Side Story will be on stage at the RHS Performing Arts Theatre, 740 West North Ave., Reedley, on March 15, 16, 17, 21 and 22. The March 17 performance will be a matinee at 2 p.m. with all other performances at 7:30. Tickets are available at Bike Trax in Reedley, and at the door, and are $7 for students and $10 for adults.
There will be a special after school performance at 3 p.m. on March 20 with all tickets being only $5, which is a great chance for students to attend at a discount price–however, adults are welcome to attend this performance as well.
You can enter to win a pair of tickets to the March 21 performance by either commenting on this article or emailing KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com with the subject line “West.” A winner will be chosen on March 19.