Coffman students put their own mark on Broadway classic
Dublin Coffman High School is taking on its most challenging musical yet.
West Side Story will take the stage at Coffman High School at 7 p.m. April 10-13. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students.
The story of love, loyalty and violence is proving to be a challenge in music and moves.
But after Coffman High School theater teacher and production director Dan Stowell saw the Broadway Across America show with about 60 students last summer, he knew the group was up to the challenge.
Stowell also saw a few things in the national production he wanted to change.
"I love the story and the music, but I wanted to do things differently," he said.
Among the changes are bringing the story to the audience; Maria's fire escape is in the audience and the Jets and Sharks make appearances out among the audience.
Bringing a soul to the Jets was also in Stowell's vision. The Broadway show played the group gritty and nasty and Stowell sees them as lost boys using violence to find a place in the world.
"It's got some intense issues," said senior Lindsey Welch, who stars as Maria.
"When Mr. Stowell explained it to us, it's like the gangs are boys who are lost," Welch said. "They're using violence to deal with those issues. It makes them more human."
Junior Elizabeth Blanquera, who also plays Maria, said the best part of the play comes after a tragedy.
"My favorite song is definitely 'I Have a Love' after she finds out Tony killed her brother because she loves him anyways," she said. "It's the most beautiful piece of music."
Both the live orchestra and actors have been challenged by the music, Stowell said.
"The music is very intense," Junior Maggie Pfeifer, who plays Anita said. "It's made us get better and rise to the level of the show."
"We're singing with a live orchestra and the songs are very emotional so they don't have a strict beat," said Senior Bobby Lewe, who plays Tony.
"It's something I haven't had to deal with before, but it works."
Choreography has been a challenge, especially creating moves that aren't the same as the Broadway version, but still capture the meaning and spirit of the show.
"It's so iconic," Choreographer Meghan Western said of the show. "We have to come up with new choreography that isn't the same, but still speaks to the same intent."
Students have been catching on quickly.
"They've been doing an excellent job," Western said, adding a few dance workshops were held during the summer in anticipation of the show. "They've been working hard."
Students have also been working with professional fight choreographer Jason Speicher on the rumbles.
"It's amazing that he comes up with something that looks impulsive," Lewe said.