High-school actors, musicians and backstage technicians are learning lines, cadenzas and set changes across the Lower Hudson Valley, preparing to whisk theatergoers to far-flung locales — in a musical season of 60 productions stretching into May.
Four schools — Dobbs Ferry’s The Masters School, Eastchester, Pleasantville and Rye Neck — will chart a course for a small, provincial French village, where a doddering inventor named Maurice and his bookworm daughter, Belle, have little idea what enchantment lies in store in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” with a popular score by Westchester’s Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman.
Tiny fans will no doubt clutch their programs and require only the edge of their seats, squealing as the girl in the blue dress enters and is greeted with that very first “bonjour.”
Meanwhile, things are decidedly, well, slicker at Ramapo, Salesian, Sleepy Hollow and Ursuline, where Rydell High is the destination in doo-wop, souped-up productions of “Grease!”
The third-most popular title on stages this spring is sort of a mix of the top two: part Menken, part doo-wop. Ardsley, Rye and Valhalla take audiences to Skid Row with “Little Shop of Horrors,” the Ashman-Menken musical about a boy, a girl and a blood-thirsty plant.
One musical isn’t enough for Rye, which first presents the Stephen Schwartz show about Charlemagne’s son, “Pippin” — who is out to find his place in the world, his “corner of the sky.” Hastings will produce the same musical, one week after Rye.
Several schools are going to the Golden Age of musicals, with “Oklahoma!” (at Edgemont and Lakeland), “Anything Goes” (at Kennedy and Nanuet), “Guys and Dolls” (Haldane and John Jay), and “42nd Street” (Harrison and Sacred Heart).
Bronxville and Croton-Harmon are heading to sea with Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.”
Pelham and Port Chester are producing the Elvis jukebox musical, “All Shook Up.”
Dobbs Ferry and North Rockland are trying their hand at one of the form’s most popular new titles: “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” about a flapper who dreams big in the big city.
Clarkstown North and Somers present “Once Upon a Mattress,” the delightful musical setting of “The Princess and the Pea” story.
Two schools — Mamaroneck and Horace Greeley — annually present spring musicals with only seniors in the cast. This year, directors Stacie Moye (Mamaroneck) and Christopher Schraufnagel (Greeley) have chosen the same musical: the loopy “Xanadu,” a stage adaptation of the Gene Kelly-Olivia Newton-John film about an artist, a muse and a roller disco. (Yes, you read that right.)
Nearly 30 schools are doing shows no one else is doing in the area, giving fans just one shot to see musicals such as “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Putnam Valley), “Aida” (Ossining), “Bye Bye, Birdie” (Irvington), “Hello, Dolly!” (Blind Brook) and “My Fair Lady” (Walter Panas). It might be 31: Pearl River has yet to select its musical.
Audiences in Carmel will likely give three cheers (and one cheer more) for a now-rare production of another sea-bound Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, “HMS Pinafore.”
Two musicals have men dressing as women, one set in Baltimore and one on the road: “Hairspray” at Albertus Magnus and “Sugar” (based on the classic film, “Some Like It Hot”) at Briarcliff.
One has a woman dressing as a man: Rupert Holmes’ “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” — a murder-mystery in which the audience votes the ending — at Byram Hills.
Hendrick Hudson presents the happiest labor-management musical ever written: “The Pajama Game” while Woodlands High School in Hartsdale takes audiences to the islands, for “Once on This Island,” a Caribbean spin on “The Little Mermaid” story, with words and music by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the team behind “Ragtime” and “Seussical.”
Two are musicals about musicals: “The Drowsy Chaperone” (Westlake), set in a bachelor apartment, and “Urinetown” (Rockland Country Day), set in a futuristic world where water is scarce and peeing isn’t free. (Yes, you read that right.)
Three are based on characters named Annie, orphan and otherwise: “Annie” at School of the Holy Child in Harrison, “Annie Jr.” at Alexander Hamilton in Elmsford, and “Annie Get Your Gun” at Tuckahoe, which is set far west of Daddy Warbucks’ mansion.
Source material varies widely.
Rye Country Day School’s “The Boys from Syracuse” is based on Shakespeare’s unlikely “Comedy of Errors” about two separated pairs of identical twins.
“The Secret Garden” at Brewster, is based on a beloved children’s book, while “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Peekskill is based on the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz.
“Footloose” and “The Wedding Singer” began life as movies and will play stages at Spring Valley and Fox Lane, respectively, this year.
Tappan Zee keeps things in New York with “Sweet Charity,” the story of Charity Hope Valentine, history’s most famous taxi dancer.
Some schools have chosen shows with serious themes.
Archbishop Stepinac, the all-boys school in White Plains that recruits girls from all over, presents “The Phantom of the Opera,” set in, around and under the Paris Opera.
Nyack, which mounted a milestone production of “Phantom” in 2008, turns to Georgia, and Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade,” about the sensational 1913 Atlanta trial of pencil-factory manager Leo Frank.
New Rochelle, which presented “Parade” a few seasons ago, turns to “Working,” the musical based on Studs Terkel’s interviews about the world of work. It has characters from all over the map, and music by a committee of composers, including Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor and Mary Rodgers.
Mahopac presents the battle of good and evil in one body, in Frank Wildhorn’s “Jekyll & Hyde.”
Stephen Sondheim’s murderous London barber, Sweeney Todd, will take up residence in Suffern, while another Sondheim musical, “Into the Woods” — set in the world of fairy tales — will explain what happens after “they lived happily ever after,” at Clarkstown South High School in West Nyack.
A few years ago, South presented Kander and Ebb’s gritty “Cabaret” — which is the musical this year at Yorktown.
Whichever musical you choose — from “Aida” to “Xanadu” — you’ll be reminded of what it is like to be in high school, to put effort into a show, to see it to the final curtain and to take a bow.
By mid-May, it’ll all be over. But the memories will last a lifetime.
(To download a PDF of the season schedule, click on the link at the top right of this page, under the “search” window.)