‘Something’s Coming, Something Good’ at Camden Hills

Oct 31, 2012
Photo by: Patty Clark Camden Hills Regional High School performers embrace the urban — and Shakespearean — roots of “West Side Story” on the Camden Opera House’s fire escape. The show is being staged at the Strom Auditorium.

Rockport — Camden Hills Regional High School will open its fall musical production of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” Friday, Nov. 9. Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. — the run’s only matinee — in the Strom Auditorium of the school, off Route 90.

“West Side Story” first hit Broadway in 1957. The success and timelessness of this classic musical, with book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and concept and original choreography by Jerome Robbins, are evident in the many professional productions including revivals mounted in 1980 and 2009; countless international productions; plus a current national tour. Memorable tunes include “Maria,” “Tonight,” “Somewhere” and “Something’s Coming.”

Robbins’ famous choreography became popular with young Americans with the hit movie adaptation in 1961. Camden’s choreographer, Katie Thompson, is no stranger to the Strom stage, having graduated from the school in 2005. The chance to choreograph her favorite musical has been a thrill for Thompson and the students have eagerly responded to her enthusiasm and professionalism. Extra rehearsals have been scheduled on weekends in order to learn the intricate dances of  “Mambo,” “Cool,” “America” and the “Jet Song.” The majority of the cast does not have an extensive dance background and Thompson has adapted Robbins’ original choreography to fit the talents of the Camden Jets and Sharks. Lending a hand on the dance scene has been YMCA instructor Jonas Contakos, who helped the students with the fight choreography.

Contakos, also a percussionist, will appear in “West Side Story” alongside a host of professional musicians in the pit orchestra. Bernstein’s score is so challenging that the usual Camden Hills practice of adding students to the pit orchestra had to be abandoned.  Joani Mitchell, accompanist for the production, will be joined by conductor Nancy Rowe and woodwind specialists Glen Sargent, Steve Weston, Mitch Kuhn, Jason Ward and Karen Hawthorne Smith. Tim Weir, director of music at University of Maine in Augusta, will lead the brass on trumpet alongside Dwight Tibbetts (trumpet), Emily Widdoes and Carolyn Kanicki (French horn) and Pat Munson (trombone).  The rhythm section is filled out by Susan Iltis on keyboard, Wellington Gordon (bass) with Contakos and John Mehrmann on percussion.  Special kudos go to CHRHS senior, Orion Krause, who joins the percussion section as the only student able to play this complicated musical score.

Director Kim Murphy, who usually conducts the pit, said she was relieved when colleague Rowe agreed to conduct, freeing Murphy up from having to memorize complicated and changing beat patterns in order to keep an eye on the total production.

“Although I have performed some of the music from ‘West Side Story,’ I have never had the opportunity to conduct it. This music is notoriously difficult. It has been a great challenge and inspiration for me, as a conductor, to study this score. I am very excited to work with the musicians in this pit orchestra in presenting this fantastic music to our community,” said Rowe.

Reserved seats are $12. General admission tickets are $10, $6 students and senior citizens in advance at stromtickets.com or HAV II in Camden. Tickets will be $15/$12/$8 at door. For more information, call the box office at 236-7800, ext. 282.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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