The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 11, 2005


Students bring energy to West Side Story

The energy expended by students in each production of West Side Story could easily power Concord-Carlisle High School for an entire month if they could only figure out how to harness the BTUs. The students have outdone themselves when it comes to energetic dancing, acting and singing in this year's production, which completes its run on the high school auditorium stage this weekend. The musical, which features stand-out performances by a number of Carlisle students, also has some of the most impressive dance numbers seen on the stage in recent history, thanks to the skills of choreographer Jennifer Micarelli-Webb, who grew up in Carlisle.

Maria and her friends sing "I Feel Pretty." Left to right are Danielle Hecht, Rebecca Patterson, Annalee Mulhall and Olivia Vienneau. (Photo by John Brewer)

West Side Story, which debuted on Broadway in 1957 and was made into an Academy Award-winning movie in 1961, features music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Just a few of the familiar and memorable tunes from West Side Story include "Maria," "One Hand, One Heart," "Tonight," and "I Feel Pretty."

In a retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the story follows star-crossed lovers Tony (played by senior Alex Brewer from Carlisle) and Maria (sophomore Annalee Mulhall), who come from rival factions on the west side of Manhattan: Tony from the native New York gang, the Jets; and Maria from the newly-arrived Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Trouble brews as the Sharks seek to stake a claim on turf that the Jets feel is rightfully theirs. Brewer and Mulhall are believable as lovelorn, star-crossed lovers, and their sweet singing voices are a pleasure to listen to.

Two of the stand-out dance numbers in West Side Story are "America," when the Shark girls compare the pros and cons of their newly adopted country with their homeland of Puerto Rico in a flurry of colorful rustling skirts, shouts and spirited clapping; and the hilarious "Gee, Officer Krupke," in which the Jet boys bemoan their woeful thug existence. Other eye-popping dance numbers include: "The Dance at the Gym" and "The Rumble" scene, as well as the "Ballet Sequence."

Whether they're dancing, engaging in a rumble, or hefting themselves up over a chain link fence, the students seem to be in constant motion. Clearly, they have been well directed to put energy and heart into their performances. But it's more than that, says Chuck Brown, the CCHS drama and music teacher who directed and produced the show.

"It's not just energy, it's synergy as well. As a group, everyone has pulled together to tell West Side Story the best way they can. It takes everybody in the cast, crew and pit, giving one hundred percent of their focus, energy and commitment," he says. "The themes in the show of racism; the effects of hate and what it can do, really drove the cast forward. They believe it's an important message, and you can see that commitment."

One of those cast members is Max Lewin, a senior from Carlisle who plays the role of Riff, the leader of the Jets. "The story itself and the passion everyone has for it is amazing. There are so many different moods and motifs. It's incredible to be a part of this," says Lewin. "I'm really enjoying the part [of Riff]. It's energetic, and I can let loose completely on the stage." If he has any regrets, it's only that he didn't get started in drama earlier in his high school career. "The first show I did was Fiddler on the Roof [last year]. I've been having so much fun, spending time with all my friends, and it's going to be ending too soon."

This is the first high school show for Eric Stengrevics, a sophomore from Carlisle who plays the role of Baby John, but he says he will definitely be involved in future productions. Stengrevics describes his character, a younger member of the Jets, as trying "to fit in and act bigger than he is. He's also the one who knows what's morally right."

Why West Side Story, and why now? Brown says he chose the show because he felt the students were ready for it. "It's the show against which you measure yourself as a theater program. It's hard musically, and also in regard to dancing and acting, so it really says something if the kids can do it well. And they have."

The final performances of West Side Story are this Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the CCHS auditorium. Tickets are $15 each. At press time, the Saturday performance was nearly sold out, but tickets for Friday and Sunday will be available for purchase at the door.

Carlisle students in the cast

Carlisle students include Max Lewin as Riff, Alex Brewer as Tony, Eric Stengrevics as Baby John, Will Lamb as Mouthpiece, Walter Woodward as Pepe, Jeffrey Pan as Juano, and Olivia Vienneau as Francisca, as well as Brooke Chateauneuf, Katie DeGuglielmo and Jennifer Zuk as Jets; Carolyn Abend, Kithzia Lopez and Maia Reed as Sharks; and Oliver Bojanic and Lisa Yanofsky as featured dancers. Carlisle students in the pit orchestra include: Teresa Huang on violin; William Scarlett on bass; Stephanie Abend and Margot Smith on flute/piccolo; Kathleen Walsh on bassoon; Molly Crowther, Michael Johnson and Matt Phillippo on clarinet; Ben Brewer on guitar; Adam Schad and Christine Shaver on horn; Emily Yu on saxophone; Ravi Ramanthan on trumpet; Elizabeth Cheever, Lauren Lamere and Michael Luby on trombone; and Eric Johnson and Keith Lewis on percussion.

Carlisle students behind-the-scenes include: Michael Johnson, student technical director; Chris Daniels, front-of-house manager; Abigail Rolando, lighting designer; Heather Gladstone with props; Wade Chuang on sound crew; and Melissa Judson on makeup.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito