By Josh Kirk
Arundel High School’s talented theater company knows how to leave audiences amazed with their spring musical. This is evident in their recent productions of 2016’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, 2017’s Les Miserables, and 2018’s All Shook Up. This school year, the theater students have been rehearsing and preparing for a production of the legendary 1957 romantic musical tragedy West Side Story, which is looked at by critics and musical theater fans as one of the greatest musical tragedies of all time.
The 1961 film adaption has been long considered one of the greatest movies ever made. However, for a bunch of high school theater students, West Side Story is a big challenge to produce, as their production is the original Broadway version. This is arguably Arundel High Theater at their most ambitious since 2017’s epic Les Miserables production.
The leading cast of West Side Story includes senior Samuel Acey as Tony, senior Casmira Williams as Maria, junior Jack Smith as Riff, junior Ethan Albo as Bernardo, senior Jeremy Limansky as Chino, senior Devin Weatherspoon as Anita, junior Henry Smith as Gladhand, and senior Elizabeth Moore as Anybodys.
The famous ensemble consists of the Sharks and Jets, which feature both a boys’ group and a girls’ group. Some freshmen in the ensembles include Catherine Osikowicz and Katelyn Ruyter, while sophomores include Thomas Greenslit and Shea Gardner. Some of the ensemble juniors are Drake Mayer, CJ Campbell, and Corrine Litsey. Finally, company seniors include Carson Butts, Robert Cambardella, Colin Delpo, Maddie Jurek, Amanda Troncale, and several others. The production is directed by David Jennings, who also directed last year’s All Shook Up, choreographed by Jamie Jennings, and produced by Arundel’s theater arts teacher, Ms. Minor.
One favorite number from the show among cast members is “Cool,” which Shea Gardner and Elizabeth Moore consider one of the more difficult songs, where the cast work on their techniques. It is also a favorite for senior Alexander Hamilton. Another popular song and scene for the cast is “Dance at The Gym,” according to Catherine Osikowicz and Sydney McFarlane. McFarlane likes this number because of how it leads up to the moment when Tony and Maria meet for the first time.
Hamilton’s favorite part of the number is the face-off between the Sharks and the Jets, but his favorite song to rehearse is “Tonight,” the final song in Act One.
“My favorite is ‘America’ because it’s very fast-paced and keeps you on your toes,” said Emma Field.
“I think my favorite is ‘Something’s Coming’ because I sing through the whole thing, and I’m not in very many group numbers singing-wise,” said Sam Acey.
However, putting together West Side Story did come with some challenges. “Probably the hardest thing for the cast was the dancing because it’s a very dance-heavy show,” said stage manager Sophia Garner. “For tech, it’s probably the size of the set,” senior “techie” Annalisa Lowe said.
On the other hand, a good chunk of the cast says that getting into character was also a big challenge. “I kind of have to be the only happiness in the show,” said Sam Acey. “We needed a lot of time to try hating each other,” said Sydney McFarlane, as she reflects on the challenge of getting into character roles.
West Side Story wasn’t officially announced until the beginning of this school year. The initial plan for this year’s musical was Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. However, Minor was not completely satisfied with her original plan, as she had a desire to do a show that would appeal to the Arundel High community as a whole. In the middle of September, when West Side Story was announced, it caused both excitement among theater students and some greater pressure, too. “While I didn’t love the idea of Cinderella, I had it mentally prepared for in my mind,” said Shea Gardner. “It just switched up, so I was like ‘OK,’” she added.
Arundel High Theater’s performances of West Side Story are on March 15th–17th and 21st–23rd. Most of the performances are at 7:00 p.m., but there is one matinee on Sunday, March 17th at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, military, and students, and $7 for children.
The cast and crew seem very excited to put on this show. “The talent we have with dancing, singing, and acting is really amazing,” Acey said. “The growth I’ve seen over the course of all the rehearsals is very exciting,” he added. Field also said, “the way that people have got into characters is really good,” and Hamilton stated, “all the people have put a lot of dedication and effort into this show.” If this production does live up to the vision of David and Jamie Jennings, you can bet that audiences will be highly impressed. Prepare to smile, gasp, and cry while seeing this show. Break a leg, theater students!