Four schools take on Jets and Sharks

IT MAY be about two rival teenage gangs, but students from four Armidale schools have spent months working together to bring to the stage this week the famous musical West Side Story.

Since auditions in September, about 100 boys and girls from The Armidale School, PLC Armidale, New England Girls’ School and O’Connor Catholic College have been rehearsing for a sell-out season which opens at the TAS Hoskins Centre tonight.

In addition to the student cast and crew is an orchestra of 19 musicians, including many well known in the New England region.

The musical, inspired by Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, but set in 1950s New York, explores the rivalry between teenage gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.

When the former leader of the Jets falls in love with the sister of the leader of the Sharks, tensions escalate – and the gang rivalry and doomed relationship of the young lovers is carried out through dialogue, music and dance to its ultimate conclusion.

Schools spokesman Tim Hughes said the director, Emma Buzo, had promised audiences would be in for a visual and musical treat.

 “We have asked a lot of the boys and girls; we are asking them to deal with some pretty serious social themes as well as complex dance routines and Leonard Bernstein’s wonderful but very sophisticated musical score with its multiple time signatures,” Ms Buzo said.

“It’s surely one of the most wonderful musicals – the flair of the Puerto Ricans, the gusto of the Jets and the Romeo and Juliet factor of Tony and Maria come together in an exciting and dramatic way.”

She said it was the first time in many years students from the four schools had appeared together in a musical. 

Taking the lead roles are Andrew Knight from TAS as Tony, Dakotah Love from PLC as Maria, playing Anybodys is Kate Frazier from O’Connor and NEGS student Emily Sole has the role of Anita.

 Most of the lead actors are in years 9-10 and complementing the senior performers is a choir of 25 students from years 3-8.

“We just couldn’t have staged it without the choreographic skills of Melissa Killen from O’Connor,” Ms Buzo said. 

“Amy Walsh has developed some magical music talent, which comes to the fore in well-known songs such as Maria, Tonight, Somewhere and of course the lavish America.”

The show wraps up on Saturday night. 

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