West Fargo High School Theatre presents West Side Story
West Fargo High School drama students will be presenting an epic love story with their performances of West Side Story set for two weekends, Feb. 8, 9, 10 and Feb. 16 and 17. Showtime will be 7:30 p.m. nightly.
This landmark Broadway musical takes Shakepeare's Romeo and Juliet to 1950s New York City, as two idealistic lovers find themselves caught between warring street gangs, the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Their struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence and prejudice is one of the most innovative, heart-wrenching and relevant musical dramas of this time.
According to director Megan Gredesky, this classic production was first done at West Fargo High School about ten years ago. She said that assistant director Mike Anderson has been a great help, having assisted with the Trollwood performance in 1998.
The musical indeed offers something for everyone's taste. From the first chord of the overture to the final bow, West Side Story will keep you immersed in this story of camaraderie, conflict and love. For the music lover, a score of wonderful songs including the optimistic Something's Coming, and I Feel Pretty, the comedic Gee, Officer Krupke and America, and the love songs, Maria and Tonight. For the action lover, rumbles and fights galore. For the romantic, a story of true love.
In addition to assistant director, Mike Anderson also serves as promotion director, and Jessie John is the student director. Sue Jordahl and Karen Morrison are vocal directors, with Morrison also conducting the pit orchestra.
The production is being choreographed by professional choreographer Mary Noel, daughter of a child film actress who appeared in such films as Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland.
Noel's passion is teaching dance at the North Dakota Ballet Company in Grand Forks, Gredesky said. "She demands excellence from these students and she works incredibly fast, getting results from them quickly. I worked with her last summer in Cabaret with the Crimson Creek Collegiate Players, and I respect her highly as a choreographer, artist, and friend."
Cast members include Brandon Millar as Tony, Brian Schiller as Riff, Jess Nelson as Graziella and Madeline Bailey as Velma. Also appearing in the production are: Gentry Lee, Taylor Trauger, Sam Forsey, Dylan Gulbrandson, CJ Hoffart, Robbie Jacobs, Monica Schroeder, Caitlin Leick, Brittany Haaland, Becca Pegg, Holly Johnson, Lizzy Pelton, Solveig Swanson, Garrett Anderson, Landry Boehm, Adam Trapp, Chelsi Desotel, Travis Bregier, Josh Ockert, Adam Watts, Serge Nezepa, Matt Morrison, Pat Richard, Sam Pilch, Samantha Pyle, Erin Behrmann, Chelsea Peterson, Brittany Davila, Sadie Kraft, Cydney Crowe, Abby Hammes, Kim Braesch, Megan Chiodini, Leah Jenson, Jill Bechtold, Becky Capouch, Sara Giuliano, Melissa Parsons, Laurel Schuessler, Katelyn Aswege, Chelsey Beyer, Kate Eidenschink, Morgan Houle, Alice Paulson, Megan Skarsten and Yulia Soboleva.
Gredesky said the entire cast has been emotionally affected by their involvement with West Side Story. "The discussion of gangs, hate, and violence has been quite intense at rehearsals, bringing up personal experiences that have been hard to unleash," she noted. "Nevertheless, this experience has brought them closer; I have never seen a cast bond in this way. They are truly a family passionate about telling this story."
She added the most gratifying element has been seeing the actors live up to their potential. "This production particularly asks this cast to experience a sense of vulnerability like they have never experienced on stage before. The fact that every single cast member is willing to support each other and not judge one another for the personality traits that are so often not accepted by our culture makes me proud to say that they are truly living in their moment."
Members of the pit orchestra are: Samantha Magnus, Karen Flesberg, Zachary Fisher, Jay Gjestvang, Claire Shive, Brittni Spitzer, Marissa Harsch, Alyssa Jorgenson, Amanda Paulson, Jannel Barnes, Briana Hartog, Sara Morrison, Samantha Wohler, David Tibbals, Darren Spicer, Austin Jensen, Clint Wohler, Andrew Merkel, Michael Olson, Jason Carlson, Ali Jenson, Emilie Lisburg and Sue Jordahl.
The technical crew includes: Simona Sjoblom, Jacob Bechtold, and Adam Trapp, lights and sound; Abby Hammes, costumes and make-up; Taylor Trauger, publicity; Ian Evanson, Megan Mallett, Twidget, Krissy Reyerson, set construction, scenery and running crew.
Gredesky said that Evanson has been a driving force behind the set. "I don't know what we would have done without him. The costumes have also been fun," she continued. "We've rented and constructed, but the most valuable thing is we have leaders like Abby Hammes who is not only a talented and creative seamstress but an organizer. She knows what every cast member is wearing and in what act, scene, etc."
Other members of the production staff include: Larry Anderson, scenic artist; Stephanie Richter, assistant choreographer; and Annie Baaken, inspirational leader.
In retrospect, Gredesky said working on West Side Story has changed everyone that's been a part of it. "It has enlightened us and we will forever remember it. We will always treasure that fearful, but rewarding, experience of seeking a truth that will continue to exist and affect each one of us - maybe more than others as we are people who are judged for an artistic and dramatic way of being. I'm just so proud that they are willing to be themselves and face this culture that doesn't accept them. They are truly admirable young adults."
Reservations are encouraged for the performances. Admission to West Side Story is $6. Call the West Fargo High School office at 356-2050 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for reservations. Tickets will also be available at the door. The Theatre is located in the West Fargo High School at 801 9th St. E.