The extra curricular musical theatre program at St. Peter's High School is getting set to put on their rendition of the classic West Side Story February 29 through to March 3. This is the second time the school will be performing this play.
St. Peter High School students rehearse for this year's production of West Side Story. (Photo: Provided)
"We first put it together, nine years ago, and felt that it would be a neat experience to try it again with a whole new generation of young performers," said Bernard Leger, the artistic director of the program since 1999.
He explains that one of the most exciting parts of this year's play is that the live orchestra has also been increasing in size over the years, under the direction of music teacher, Lisa Maclean. This year the group is maxing out with 25 players which is a combination of student musicians from the school, student musicians from other schools, community musicians, professional musicians and music teachers within the Ottawa area.
"The first time we performed West Side Story, it was with an orchestra of 15, so quite an addition and certainly worth coming to hear them," said Leger.
Beginning rehearsals in October, Leger says the young group of musicians and actors have worked tirelessly to bring a "tough show" to the stage. He says that they will be staying true to most of the original choreography from the song "Cool" that was performed in the 1960s film version.
"Mixing choreography from what was cutting edge back then with our own choreography was a truly educational experience," he explains.
From this program, St. Peter was able to launch a new theatre and development program that ran last semester as a credit course. The group performed "The Other Side of the River," a two and a half hour musical written by a Toronto author at the NAC, earlier this year.
" Many of the students involved in this production, as like many of our alumni, have dreams and aspirations of attending post-secondary institutions to further study musical theatre," said Leger, who has overseen firsts in high school productions such as Les Miserables (School Edition) and Phantom of the Opera (full Broadway production). " As a result of the successes of this program and student interest, St. Peter Catholic High School will be launching a Specialist High Skills Major next fall with a focus on musical theatre."