NEW CASTLE —
Most know West Side Story as the love story between Maria, played by senior Carley Pickel, and Tony.
Junior Matty Conway is Riff, the leader of the white, blue-collar Jets and has a part that calls for a lot of attitude.
Dakota Parsons, a sophomore, is Bernardo, the leader of the Puerto-Rican Sharks.
The music is familiar to just about everyone.
“Maria,” “America,” “Somewhere,” “Jet Song”, “I Feel Pretty” and “Cool” are the types of songs one hums over and over again after seeing the show.
Some of the lead characters select “Gee, Officer Krupke” as their favorite song.
Conway said it’s the point in the show where there is a lighthearted moment.
“It provides some comic relief.”
It’s one of Blank’s top choices, too, but he is drawn to slower songs such as “One Hand, One Heart,” in which he teams up with Pickel and the reprise of “Tonight.”
“From a visual standpoint, there is so much going on,” Blank said.
Near the beginning, though, he performs “Something’s Coming,” which he says is enthusiastic and gets the crowd going.
“There’s an excitement about the unknown in the song. You get to grab the audience from the beginning.”
That song appeals to Pickel, and Shepherd likes performing, “A Boy Like That,” because she said it requires the most emotion.
“It’s very angry and accusatory,” Shepherd pointed out. “It’s a challenge to sing that song.”
A TREMENDOUS UNDERTAKING
This is not a small cast. More than 50 students are in the show and another 65 are involved in set construction, costumes, make-up, lighting, sound and stage crew.
There are a lot of sets in the two-act musical, including Doc’s Drug Store, a bridal shop and the streets and alleyways.
“We couldn’t do this without a great art department,” Blank pointed out, adding that Lori Hite, home economics teacher, oversees the costuming and is assisted by a lot of parents.
Conway’s favorite scene is the final one.
“It’s a shock to see the end,” he said.
For Blank, it is the rumble scene — the last one of the first act — that he referred to as most powerful.
The scene that covers a wide range of emotions is the assault scene at Doc’s, which is Shepherd’s favorite.
“This whole show is so intense,” Pickel observed. “And without Mr. Gryn’s guidance, none of this would be possible. He’s so supportive.”
Parsons said he loves the musical in general and by examining it closer, he could form his character.
As for high school performances, Gryn ranks West Side Story third behind “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
“It still holds up well.”
The original 1957 Broadway production ran for 732 performances before going on tour.
Three and half months of up to four hours of rehearsing every night all comes down to three performances, but the end is rewarding to all. That’s dedication, commitment and teamwork.
For this group, “the best part is we all have a great chemistry together on the stage,” Conway said. “We connect with one another.”
It’s bittersweet for the seniors to be performing together for the final time.
All agree they couldn’t have asked for a better musical.
“This was cast perfectly,” Pickel said. “This is a beautiful show with a great message that no matter what group you belong to, you can come together as one.”