Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, which last year was one of just a handful of schools in the U.S. allowed to stage Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” will stand alone this year as the first American high school licensed to produce Elton John’s “Billy Elliot.”
The all-boys Catholic school will present the show — about a boy in a rough English mining town who’d rather dance than fight — May 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10 in the school’s Major Bowes Theater.
“It’s such a beautiful story,” said director Frank Portanova. “Not to get sappy, but it’s about the power of love and family and just the humanity of the piece is brilliant. It’ll be a great show for families to experience together.”
New York-based Music Theater International wants Stepinac to take the musical for a spin before offering it to more schools. It’s the same arrangement the school had with Disney Theatricals for last year’s award-winning “Mary Poppins.”
The reaction to the announcement was relief, from at least one Stepinac student, Portanova said.
“One of the boys said to me, ‘We had “Evita,” then “Mary Poppins.” It’s about time we have a boy in the title.”
Gotta have heart: Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.,cqdon’tspellout is going to get a workout this year. The musical “Damn Yankees,” the story of the hapless Washington Senators and the out-of-nowhere phenom Joe Hardy who revives the cellar-dwelling franchise, will grace stages at Harrison, North Salem and Albertus Magnus this season. It will be the most-produced musical in a crowded lineup of shows across the Lower Hudson Valley this year.
There’s something about watching baseball players on stage when there’s snow on the ground that will undoubtedly lift spirits. Last year’s most popular show, “Legally Blonde,” will be back, with productions at Somers and Mahopac. But for the first time in recent memory, no school in the area is staging “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”
New faces: New directors are stepping forward this year, including: Jen Bankey, who’ll co-direct and co-choreograph with Justin Boccitto at North Rockland; Elyse Gellert in Mamaroneck; Chris Briante at The Masters School; Clare Carey at Hendrick Hudson; Steve Branford at Ramapo; Stephanie Rubino in Brewster; Carly Spaeth at John Jay; Randy Schwartz in Suffern; and Dan Browne in New Rochelle.
Something completely different: Ossining’s 2015 musical, “Loserville” has rarely been produced in the U.S., and is making its regional premiere here. It was developed by a youth theater group in England and had a brief run on the West End. Producer Bradley Morrison says it’s based on an album by a band called Son of Dork.
“It tells the story of high school computer geeks in 1971 trying to get computers to talk to each other,” Morrison says. “The music is all pop, punk, rock. Think ‘High School Musical’ meets ‘Big Bang Theory’ meets (Green Day’s) ‘American Idiot’ — in the 1970s.”
Comedies abound: Most schools are taking the comical route this year, with Westlake and Ardsley staging “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” In Mamaroneck and New Rochelle, they’ll be stacking the beds in “Once Upon a Mattress.”
Plays to be named later: Croton-Harmon, which staged “The Pajama Game” last year, has yet to decide on its musical. Mount Vernon, which revived its musical last year, has no musical on its calendar.
Everybody in: For 20 years at Mamaroneck High School, only graduating seniors took part in the big-book spring musical. Underclassmen in the school’s Performing Arts Culture Exchange — a special arts curriculum — did original musicals, but not the big spring musical. For that, they had to wait for the final semester of their college careers.
Things are different this year, as Mamaroneck stages “Once Upon a Mattress,” the comedic take on the story of the gregarious Princess Winnifred and her efforts to find a suitable prince. It’s an all-school affair, with the production team comprising only district staff, the pit comprising only high school students and the cast comprising freshmen through seniors.
Still just for seniors: In Chappaqua, Horace Greeley still has a seniors-only musical, a scholarship fundraiser that typically fills the stage with 130 or so kids, or more. This year, the show is “Hair,” the Age of Aquarius musical. Groovy.
Shake a leg: Those who prefer dance musicals won’t be disappointed: Hastings will stage “A Chorus Line”; Rye and Sleepy Hollow present “Anything Goes”; Valhalla and Rye Country Day go “Footloose”; John Jay and Clarkstown South fire up Greased Lightning in “Grease!”; and the kids at Walter Panas will be tapping like crazy in “42nd Street.” Director Julie Colangelo-Doré will be racking up the miles this year, directing Valhalla’s “Footloose” March 20-21, then pivoting to direct Sleepy Hollow’s “Anything Goes” April 17-18.
Where are we? Bronxville’s theater is undergoing a massive reimagining and renovation that is running behind schedule. Director Peter Royal is getting his students ready to perform “Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street” on March 6 and 7, but he’s still not sure where they’ll perform it. He’s pursuing venues including nearby colleges.
‘Oz’ times four: L. Frank Baum’s classic story of a girl from Kansas, a twister and a whole lotta Munchkins will be seen at four schools this season. White Plains and Lakeland will stage “The Wizard of Oz,” and Peekskill and Alexander Hamilton present its Motown retelling, “The Wiz.”
Going darker: “Little Shop of Horrors,” Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s dark Faustian story masquerading as an infectious doo-wop musical, will play Salesian in New Rochelle and Dobbs Ferry — on the same weekend. Port Chester and Ramapo, fresh off last year’s “Urinetown” and “In the Heights,” will present the school edition of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Rent.”
Classics: Rye Neck and Nyack will take audiences to River City, Iowa, for Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” Blind Brook and Spring Valley will turn Montagues and Capulets into Jets and Sharks, staging “West Side Story.” At Yorktown, director Tom Arduini tells the love story of Yonkers’ most eligible bachelor, and his meddling matchmaker, in “Hello, Dolly!” In Pelham, directors Tom Beck and Neil Schleifer plan to have everything coming up roses as they stage “Gypsy” in one of the most charming little theaters in the region. At Tappan Zee, director Ed Clinton follows up last year’s “Music Man” with Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun.”
R&H, all over the place: Musicals from the fertile collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II are well represented this season. Kennedy Catholic and The Ursuline School climb every mountain to stage “The Sound of Music.” Byram Hills presents “South Pacific,” with a cast of Seabees and nurses in the ensemble. And Tuckahoe will set out to prove that the farmer and the cowman should be friends, with “Oklahoma!”
They got the horse right here: Irvington’s stage is transformed into Runyonland for “Guys and Dolls” this year.
Open that Songbook: Rockland Country Day School presents “1940s Radio Hour,” filled wall to wall with songs from the American Songbook, including Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins, Harold Arlen and Duke Ellington, to name just a few.
Upper lips stiffened: Cold Spring’s Haldane High School will present the very model of a modern major musical as it stages Gilbert & Sullivan’s fast-talking “Pirates of Penzance.”
An impossible dream? Pleasantville director Kathleen Donovan Warren tackles a rarity for high schools: Mitch Leigh’s “Man of La Mancha,” about a knight errant, his squire and the object of the knight’s affections, Dulcinea. The musical, based on Cervantes’ masterwork, has a challenging score — including the title song and “The Impossible Dream” — and presents a considerable acting challenge, to boot, particularly for the lead actor, who plays a man losing his mind before our eyes.
All in this together: Pearl River presents a great ensemble piece, “Once on This Island,” while Woodlands, which presented that show a few years back, moves on to “High School Musical,” the Disney franchise about a jock, a brain and their high-school lives.
New favorites: Hendrick Hudson and Nanuet tackle Lynn Ahrens and Steven Flaherty’s take on all things Geisel in “Seussical” and Eastchester and Brewster will be up to their eyeballs in fairytale creatures in “Shrek the Musical.” Edgemont and Briarcliff present the lovingly irreverent “Urinetown,” a funny musical with an unfortunate name. “Into the Woods” may be in multiplexes with a star-studded cast, but it’ll be Carmel’s musical this year, held at the George Fischer Middle School auditorium. “In the Heights,” about love, life and family in Washington Heights, comes to Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers.
Ancient stories, pop scores: School of the Holy Child in Rye, an all-girls school, stages “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” North Rockland, fresh off “Cats” last year, turns from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Elton John, with “Aida.”
Springtime for Cratchits: Director Jason Summers is counter-programming with his musical choice for Iona Prep. They’ll stage “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” on April 30 and May 2 and 3 at the high school in New Rochelle. No show on May 1 because that’s prom night at sister school Ursuline. Apparently, the Cratchits love a prom.
They’ve got you, “Babe”: Clarkstown North is staging an oldie, “Babes in Arms,” about kids who’d rather sing than go to a work farm. It was turned into a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musical.
That’s F-I-N-C-H: Suffern High School will stage the Pulitzer Prize-winning “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” about an aggressively ambitious window-washer named J. Pierrepont Finch who has his sights set on the executive suite. Suffern’s ace in the hole is its massive, 56-member, all-student orchestra, under the baton of Dan McCarter. And Suffern tradition holds that the understudies are guaranteed at least one performance.
Saying yes to “Nanette”: Fox Lane’s Ed Steele, who staged the rarity “Smile” last year, turns to “No, No, Nanette,” a farce about a girl who really, really, really wants to go to Atlantic City.
One night in Bangkok: Putnam Valley’s state-of-the-art performing arts center will host “Chess,” another high-school rarity, about the world of competitive chess during the Cold War. With music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, ages before “Mamma Mia!”
Punching the clock: The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry presents “The Pajama Game,” the most famous musical ever made about a job action in a pajama factory.