The hills will be alive with the sound of musicals from various decades this Spring as area high school students put on their annual productions.
The drama club at Altoona Area High School is excited to bring local residents "Back to the 80's" with their production of the retro musical. Though they weren't alive when the songs by Wham! and Cyndi Lauper were most popular, drama club director and producer of the show Jonathan Klingeman knew students involved would enjoy the music.
"Eighties music, since it is still pretty popular today, I was hoping it would attract some new kids," he said.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Rehearsing for Penn Cambria High School’s production of “Willy Wonka” are (from left) Taila Delgrande as Mrs. Beauregarde, Erin Serre as Violet Beauregarde and Calvin Venesky as Phineous Trout.
The storyline of the show features 17-year-old Corey Palmer dealing with all of the ups and downs of being a teenager on the verge of graduating high school. Because it's the tale of "a normal kid trying to be popular," Klinge-man said many of the students can relate to the show, as he believes the audience will also.
"A lot of the themes are very similar today, how the underdog can come out on top," he said. "We think everyone is going to enjoy it, young or old. It will be a great experience for anyone who doesn't know about the '80s to get caught up in the atmosphere and fun that the storyline and music gives."
Instead of choosing a show where students could play characters their own ages, Penn Cambria High School musical director and choreographer Holly Smith wanted the actors and the audience to feel like kids again when they present "Willy Wonka."
Theatergoers who come to this production will see Oompa Loompas of various sizes, Augustus Gloop wearing a sumo costume and an 8-year-old Charlie Bucket who's more than 6 feet tall. Smith said she wanted to do "Willy Wonka" because it could accommodate a large cast and was a fun, light-hearted play.
"It's just the fact that it's a show that is very familiar to everyone," she said. "I wanted to do something that would bring in a large crowd."
The script for the play differs slightly from the movie, Smith said, and is updated for the "new age," with Mike Teevee talking about his cell phone, Nintendo and Game Boy. With the talent level of the students involved, Smith added that this production definitely puts its own spin on the classic tale.
"I think everyone will enjoy seeing how we made it come to life," she said. "We used everyone's talents to create the best show we could."
In another classic favorite, students from Everett Area High School will put on "The Sound of Music." Musical director Sean Cogan said not only is this a show that many people will be familiar with, but the cast featured is the perfect one to put it on.
Nadine Williams, a 10th-grader who plays Maria in the show, agreed.
"I think that the cast works well together and is coming together really well," she said. "I think people should come see the production because of the talent we provide and the way we made the show our own."
Cogan said he's encouraged the students to bring their own elements to the characters they're portraying instead of mimicking the Broadway or movie productions of the show.
Isaiah Gibbons, a 12th-grader who plays Captain Von Trapp, took this advice to heart.
"When I come to practice, I like it because this is one of the first musicals where I've really gotten in touch with my character," he said.
From relating to the pre-World War II world of the 1930s to the working world of the 1960s, students from Bishop Guilfoyle High School are getting into their production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." It follows the young window washer, Finch, who longs to move his way up the corporate ladder and the "book voice" tells him how to do it. Director Jane Yingling said the show is a funny, exciting comedy with a ton of songs.
"There are lots of opportunities to watch the kids sing, perform and dance," she said.
Yingling added that the professional premise of the show will speak to adults, but that the subject won't be lost on younger children.
"The main character is hysterical, and is doing anything the book tells him to do and it's actually working," he said. "Even younger kids can understand the humor in all that."
Those who weren't around during the times of Elvis and Beatlemania will also still understand that premise of "Bye Bye Birdie," which will be performed at Philipsburg-Osceola High School.
To help the younger generation understand the admiration for Conrad Birdie, director and theater arts teacher Lisa Corle told them one thing.
"I told them to think of Justin Bieber," she said.
The students have embraced the '50s-era musical, Corle added, and the cast features diverse blend of students.
"It brought out a lot of the athletes who had never been in a show before," she said. "We needed a lot of men, so the boys started stepping up and auditioning. It's kind of become a high school musical in itself. The whole aspect of drama kids and athletes coming together to put on a show is really happening."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.