May 6, 2010
Molly Kappes-Arroyo's attempt to broaden the horizons of her theater students at Highland High School will be evident this weekend with the production of "Fame: The Musical."
"I wanted to challenge the students; this show is difficult vocally and also is a heavy dance show," Kappes-Arroyo said. "I wanted to choose a rock musical that is a little edgy instead of a standard Rodgers-and-Hammerstein show because I thought it might appeal more to high school students."
Senior Amber McCabe is the student director.
Although professional choreographer Katie Solina helped with the big dance numbers, Highland senior Andrew Zahn and classmate Kristina Anderson contributed with smaller choreographed numbers. Zahn said Kappes-Arroyo has faith that her students will perform well.
"I think when you are privileged enough to work with such a large and talented cast, you learn to work well with one another, although sometimes we can get on one anothers' nerves," said Zahn, who will play Nick Piazza. "The show calls for large dance numbers, which takes a lot of hard work to put together with a cast of 50 kids, some of whom who have no dance experience.
"But I think 'Fame' has a tone of appeal for audiences today; the upbeat music and dance numbers are sure to stop the show."
"Fame" is set from 1980-84 in New York's High School of Performing Arts. The story follows dance, music and acting students through four years of hard work. Along the way, they learn what it takes to make it, and also issues that teens face, such as relationships, drug use and dropping out of school.
Cast members agreed there is never a dull moment. Amy Wirtz-Frey, a junior, plays Carmen Diaz, and said the show's realism gives it an edge.
"I believe Ms. Kappes chose 'Fame' to spice things up," Wirtz-Frey said. "It's not your typical musical. There are a lot of things in the musical that happen in real life. The kids have to deal with being accepted and what it's really like at a high school."
Added Zahn: "Everything is more modern than the traditional musical, from the music all the way to the lines. It'll be something different that people might not expect, but will be sure to enjoy."
Sophomore Jaylen Lynch said he and other cast members can use their imaginations.
"I portray Joe Vegas, a Mexican student attending the performing arts high school, and we, as a theater group, decided we would try something explosive and entertaining," he said. "We learn to respect people for who they are and to put forth our best effort for a goal we attempt to reach."
More than 60 students will take part in the production.
"Many of these kids have never been in a show in which actors bring on set pieces as the scene changes before the audience's eyes," said Kappes-Arroyo, adding that student talent from outside the theater company will complement the production. "This is the first time we have incorporated members of the high school dance team. We needed them to do this show and have it be convincing.
"This combining of talent to produce the best show we can has taught the kids humility, as the dance-team girls realize how challenging singing and acting in character is, and the theater kids learn more challenging choreography than we have ever done in a high school musical."
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