A new musical is about to take to the stage in the Lansdale area, and it has more than its stage location to boast about being local. The musical, “Dakota,” was written by Pennbrook teachers.
Pennbrook Middle School will present its spring musical, an original show written by 9th grade English teacher Joe O’Brien, on Thursday, March 12, Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14. O’Brien said he originally produced the lay in 2004, but that the story for “Dakota” grew out of an earlier production at Pennbrook.
“The Play’s The Thing,” was the musical on stage at Pennbrook 11 years ago. In that musical, the play is about a school play.
“The story took place in a high school drama department,” said Madeline Bergman, communication and development specialist. “They were preparing for the spring musical called ‘Dakota.’”
O’Brien said the writing took off from that point.
“Over the next several years, the songs from that show developed a life of their own,” he said. “While warming up, students would often ask former music director, the late Mrs. Colleen Hilt, if they could sing ‘the Dakota songs.’”
The musical’s numbers didn’t go away, even after classes moved on from Pennbrook.
“Older students passed down the lyrics, and even some of the exaggerated choreography, to younger students,” said Bergman. “The songs were so well liked that we started thinking that it would be great to be able to use them in another play.”
That was the catalyst for the new production.
“So, Dakota came to life as its own show,” said O’Brien. “And so this show continues the proud Pennbrook Theatre tradition of creating and maintaining original, student-centered, family-friendly musical theatre.”
While O’Brien penned the musical, he needed assistance when it came to the notes.
“The music was written by the late Colleen Hilt, formerly Pennbrook’s chorus teacher,” he said. “Peter Neu, Pennbrook’s band director, arranged and orchestrated all the original songs and directs the pit orchestra.”
Pennbrook’s teamwork did not stop there.
“Katie Campbell, Pennbrook chorus teacher, serves as choral director,” said O’Brien. “The producer is Dianne McTamney, ninth grade social studies teacher, who handles all production and administrative issues. Mrs. Barbara Renzi, wife of Pennfield teacher Michael Renzi, is the co-director.”
And, it was not just the teachers that go in on the cooperative environment.
“More than 100 students are involved in this production on stage, in the pit orchestra, and behind the scenes,” said Bergman. “This is one of Pennbrook’s largest student organizations.
If you hope to see the original creation, you had better act fast.
“Tickets are going fast, and all three shows are expected to sell out,” she said.
For ticket information, guests may email Dianne McTamney at email@example.com. Dakota will also air on NPTV in late-March.
For inquiries, please email Joe O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.