Here is a list of musicals being performed by surrounding high schools. Which of these musicals is not like the other: Footloose, Oklahoma, Anything Goes, Drowsy Chaperone, Wizard of Oz or Pirates of Penzance?
If you guessed Pirates, you win the prize. It is the only show written by Brits, it is the only show written before 1900 (1879, to be exact) and it is technically not a musical. I have heard Pirates referred to as an opera, an operetta and even a comic opera, but it is rarely called a musical.
New Providence High School has chosen to tackle Pirates, the classic Gilbert and Sulllivan opera which features the famous “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.” When asked why NPHS has taken on such a stylistic challenge, vocal director Susan Kirkland replies, “We have never done a show like this in our memory at New Providence. We wanted to change things up a bit and also give the students a glimpse into early musical theatre. You always get mixed reactions when you tell someone you are doing Gilbert and Sullivan – they either love it or they don't, but we decided to take the chance.”
An honorable challenge, indeed. But Ms. Kirkland seems thrilled with the selection. “It has really paid off,” she says, “because the students have completely taken to it, and they really seem to be enjoying the process. The entire cast is just terrific, and the enthusiasm just keeps building as we get further into the rehearsal process. It is exciting to see the kids embrace this material.”
At least some of the 30 cast members are in rehearsal Monday through Thursday for about three hours after school. There are also some Saturday rehearsals and, as production week approaches, a long Friday and three five-hour rehearsals in the week leading up to opening night. “It's a busy week,” Ms. Kirkland adds, “but we have great parents who supply us with plenty of food and moral support during the week!” Ms. Kirkland estimates about 80 students will be involved with the production at that point.
Cast member Victoria Thomas, who plays Ruth, “the piratical maid of ALL work,” is an example of one of the students embracing the arcane material. Victoria’s favorite aspect of being a part of Pirates, however is “messing around with musical and creative people, while producing a fun, family-friendly entertainment.” As far as playing Ruth, she enjoys “the comic moments and collaborating with the cast.” The high school musical is often a great place to meet people and make new friends. Victoria credits Pirates with introducing her to tons of underclassmen she may otherwise not have met.
But why should you want to spend an evening watching Pirates at NPHS? “It is a fun, action-filled show with great music and super performances by our NPHS students,” says Ms. Kirkland. “Oh, and sword fights.”
Victoria adds, “Because it will be HILARIOUS as well as musically captivating. Everyone should support the hard work and talent their peers and teachers have put into it!”
Pirates will have performances on March 16th & 17th at 7:30 pm and March 18th at 3:00 pm at New Providence High School. Come support live theater, arts education and these hard-working students!
By the way – there is no prize, other than the satisfaction of knowing you guessed correctly. Enjoy trivia? Try this one: the last time an NP school did a Gilbert and Sullivan show may well have been New Providence Middle School’s production of HMS Pinafore in 1990. Who played the Captain? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to take a stab at it.
Joe Elefante has traveled 4 continents as a pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He has musically directed, conducted or played countless musical theater productions, including several at the Paper Mill Playhouse and Jersey Boys on Broadway and National Tour. Joe founded the Joe Elefante Big Band in 2001, which was the house band at Cecil's Jazz Club for three years, and was featured on ABC's Nightline and in The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Joe is a freelance composer/arranger/ performer, is very active as a school clinician and is Artistic Director of Elefante Music & School for the Performing Arts.
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