From ‘A Funny Thing…’ to ‘Zombie Prom,’ a slate awaits
The cast of “Urinetown” at White Plains High School strikes a pose in a break from rehearsals. White Plains kicks off the musical season with the satirical comedy Feb. 1, 2 and 3. Photo by Tania Savayan/The Journal News
As musicals go, “Urinetown” and “The Music Man” couldn’t really be further apart: One conjures a wise-cracking dystopian land where people have to pay to relieve themselves; the other is set in golden small-town U.S.A. in an age before irony.
But they’re both on the theatrical calendar at high schools across the Lower Hudson Valley from now to May. Actually, they’re as far apart as they can get on that calendar: “Urinetown” opens the season at White Plains High School this week and “The Music Man” ends it, at Walter Panas High School in early May.
Between now and then comes a marathon of 63 musicals, each involving weeks of rehearsals with lines learned, music perfected, and set changes streamlined. Even in the age of dwindling school budgets, the Lower Hudson Valley remains a cornucopia of options for theatergoers.
In fact, one school, Mount Vernon, is restoring its musical after a few years’ absence: They’ll present “The Wiz” — which happens to be the season’s most popular title, to be seen at four schools — in a restored auditorium that in 2010 suffered a wall collapse.
All is safe and sound now and, with all the bricks restored, Dorothy and her pals can ease on down the Yellow Brick Road in April.
In addition to a new auditorium at Mount Vernon, there will be new faces (beyond those of freshmen) at several schools across the Lower Hudson Valley.
Julie Colangelo steps in to direct “The Wiz” at Sleepy Hollow, succeeding Gail Persad. The other schools presenting the Motown setting of “The Wizard of Oz” are Valhalla and Albertus Magnus.
Cristina Farruggia will direct “Curtains” at Clarkstown High School South, replacing Justin Boccitto, who’ll stay on to choreograph the Rupert Holmes-John Kander-Fred Ebb backstage murder mystery musical. Boccitto will also choreograph the Jets and the Sharks in “West Side Story” at North Rockland. Suffern, which has a huge all-student orchestra, will also stage “West Side Story,” with Kathy Flynn Muenz replacing Cristina deFeo, who directed there the past few seasons.
At Salesian High School in New Rochelle, longtime director Paul Romanello is out and Salesian alumnus Torrey Rodriguez is stepping in to direct Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” a first for a Westchester high school.
School of the Holy Child in Rye and Woodlands High School in Hartsdale will stage “Little Shop of Horrors,” the Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical about a plant with a taste for blood. At Woodlands, director Nicole Masi steps into the considerable shoes of John MacLean, who retired last year after 22 years leading shows there.
Another icon of Westchester musicals, Rye Neck’s Pat Rinello, retired last year after shepherding 35 spring musicals there, and will be succeeded by Patrick Ardinger, who’ll direct “Singin’ in the Rain” this season.
Rob Jacoby steps in to the shoes of Harry Rios, who revived musicals at Elmsford’s Alexander Hamilton High School a few years back. Jacoby’s choice of musical this year is “Footloose,” based on the 1984 Kevin Bacon film about a kid from Chicago fighting for his right to dance in the Bible Belt. Catherine Gmoser in Tuckahoe and Christopher Schraufnagel at Chappaqua’s Horace Greeley made the same musical choice.
While Schraufnagel will lead a cast many times the size of Gmoser’s and Jacoby’s: His “Footloose” will star only seniors, a fund-raiser for the Class of 2013 that in years past has attracted upwards of 130 kids in the company. In Mamaroneck, director Stacie Moye directs seniors only in the legal comedy, “Legally Blonde,” about the irrepressible Elle Woods, who makes her mark at Harvard Law.
Three schools — Brewster, Somers and Sacred Heart in Yonkers — present “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” the musical about an ambitious window washer named J. Pierrepont Finch. ( “That’s F-I-N-C-H.”) While Finch is busy hoping to be a manager, Kennedy Catholic presents “The Pajama Game,” no doubt the happiest musical about a labor-management standoff in the history of musical theater.
Lakeland High School stages the Dolly Parton workplace musical “9 to 5,” while John Jay take a broader look at the world of work, with the Studs Terkel musical, “Working,” based on the Chicago newsman’s interviews with ordinary folks. “Working” is set to music by composers ranging from James Taylor to Stephen Schwartz. Fans of Schwartz can also find his work in “Godspell” at Ursuline School in New Rochelle and “Pippin” at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry.
Three schools — Harrison, Croton-Harmon and Haldane — will stage the all-Gershwin musical, “Crazy for You,” about Bobby Child, a wealthy playboy who also loves to dance, even if it’s in Deadrock, Nevada.
Princess Winnifred the Woebegone will swim the moat, repeatedly, in three productions of “Once Upon a Mattress” at Ardlsey, Fox Lane and at Mount Vernon, where the musicals are making a return after being on hold for a few years.
Yorktown will present “Sweet Charity,” the musical about a well-intentioned dance hostess who finds love in all the wrong places. Tappan Zee, which staged “Sweet Charity” last year, is turning to “Me and My Girl,” a comedy about British classes, high and low. Move over, “Downton Abbey.”
It takes two
Once again, one musical isn’t enough for Rye, once again, will present two this winter-spring: “South Pacific,” directed by Michael Limone; and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” directed by Peter Green.
Briarcliff, Carmel and Walter Panas will stage “The Music Man” this winter and spring. For Panas, it’s the second musical of the year. They did “The Sound of Music” last fall.
New Rochelle, which has two theaters from which to choose on its vast campus, will head back to their older, larger space for “Zombie Prom,” a campy show about a rebellious zombie teen who returns from a watery grave to take his girlfriend to the big dance.
Hamlisch and ‘Hairspray’
Clarkstown North presents Marvin Hamlisch’s rarely produced musical “Smile,” about the goings-on backstage at a California beauty pageant. It should be a nice tribute to the Pulitzer and Tony-winning composer of “A Chorus Line” who died last August.
Meanwhile, in Port Chester, Tracy Turnblad seeks acceptance at the pageant that is a local TV dance show in “Hairspray,” by Marc Shaiman and Nanuet’s Scott Wittman, the men who write songs for TV’s “SMASH.”
Classics, old and new
Eastchester will stage “The Drowsy Chaperone,” about a lonely theater fan spinning records in his sad apartment.
Pelham and Hendrick Hudson are both doing the musical about a dairyman in Anatevka, but contractual obligations don’t permit Pelham to announce the name of the show, because a production of the same musical will play at Lehman College in the Bronx the week before their show. For the record, Hendrick Hudson is doing “Fiddler on the Roof.”
We’ll keep you posted
Some schools haven’t set their musicals for the spring yet, including Pearl River, Hastings, Mahopac, Dobbs Ferry and Peekskill. (Subscribe to the “In the Wings” blog, theater.lohudblogs.com, for updates when those shows are announced.)
One school that traditionally has a spring musical, Rye Country Day School, did its musical, “Working,” in the fall, with a cast that mixed faculty, staff and students. The students will present a play, “Who You Callin’ a Puppet Show!,” Feb. 8 and 9.
Guys, dolls, eunuchs, Yankees
Pitchers and catchers report early in Irvington as 16 boys pick up their mitts and summon all the heart they can to beat those “Damn Yankees.” In Nanuet, the greasers are revving up the hot rod to impress the Pink Ladies in “Grease.”
Byram Hills stages the classic tale of Runyonland, “Guys and Dolls,” while Bronxville goes a bit farther back in history, with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Putnam Valley High School presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s challenging sung-through “The Phantom of the Opera,” while Stepinac, which presented an award-winning “Phantom” last year, will present another Lloyd Webber show, “Evita,” a show that closed on Broadway last night. Staying with things operatic, Ossining presents Jonathan Larson’s “Rent: School Edition,” based on Puccini’s opera, “La Boheme.”
Rockland Country Day School is going “Into the Woods” with Stephen Sondheim, while Nyack is going down the mighty Mississippi with “Big River,” Roger Miller’s staging of Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Dark, light, ‘Pan’
Edgemont High School presents the dark and moody “The Secret Garden,” while Ramapo goes in the opposite direction, choosing the bright and bubbly “Bye Bye Birdie.”
North Salem gets middle- and high-schoolers in on the act for “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” just as it’s about to return to Broadway this spring.
Westlake presents “Beauty and the Beast.” Pleasantville, which presented “Beauty” last year, heads to Neverland, trading flying monkeys for a high-flying boy who’ll never grow up and a production of “Peter Pan.”
Blind Brook gets its Seuss on to tell “Seussical,” the Steven Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens musical about Horton and all those Who’s.
And that is a season — from “A Funny Thing” to “Whoville” — at high schools across the Lower Hudson Valley between now and May.