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Director John VanDenBoom goes over last minute instructions before the dress rehearsal
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

West Side Story Is Big Hit at Garber High School

March 19, 2009       1 Comments
By: John Keuvelaar

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One of the top American musicals of all time, West Side Story, hit the Garber High School stage over this past weekend. A gripping musical with challenging music and plenty of dancing, this was a musical definitely worth seeing. As Director John VanDenBoom noted, "This is not a musical for the faint of heart." With the plays familiar music by Leonard Bernstein and Stephan Sondheim, the multiple well choreographed dance numbers, not to mention the beautifully designed sets and quality acting, it was lively and very entertaining.

The story is based upon Romeo and Juliet which is then transplanted into inner city New York . But instead of the Montigue and Capula families feuding, it is the rival gangs of Jets and the Sharks. A spice of racial tension is added as the Jets, an American gang, battles for turf with the Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang. The story line takes an interesting twist when one of the Jets members and best friend to the leader, Tony, falls in love with Maria. As their love affair blossoms, it is complicated by the fact that she is the sister of the Sharks gang leader, Bernado.

The musical is climaxed by a famous knife fight scene. Bernado stabs Tony's best friend and Jets gang leader, Riff. In turn, Tony attacks Bernado out of anger ultimately stabbing him. This gets the gangs more riled up. In the end, Tony is shot. Tragic as it is, this allows the message of the story to unfold. Finding the gun and filled with sorrow and anger, it is Maria's love that ends the cycle of violence. Contemplating killing whomever she sees and then herself, Maria knows this is not the answer. This has a profound affect on the gangs as they seem to come together and the anger subsides.

"It is a wonderful, wonderful musical," states play and Garber Choir Director John VanDenBoom. "The music is difficult to do. It is very complex for both the singers and the orchestra." But true to Garber tradition, he is able to pull off tremendous music. The orchestra is comprised of mostly professionals from the community with many having played in Garber shows for over 25 years. In the tradition of Ms. Pat (long standing play and choir director for Garber) senior Ken Yagiela is in the orchestra along with Garber graduate, Dan VerHaeghe II and Central High School senior Miranda Chosey on violin. Insuring the success of the play is the hard work by cast and crew. "This musical has been different than any other," noted John VanDenBoom. "The cast has been great to work with. This cast has worked harder than any other cast I've had thus far. Because of their willingness to work so hard, to stay so focused and be committed to it, that has really made it really enjoyable to be here." And be here he has for the last 12 weeks as the actors have been rehearsing for that long. Senior Dillon VerHaeghe played the part of Tony with junior Emily Smigiel playing Maria. Senior Aaron Schultz handled the part of Bernado while senior Shane O'Mara played Riff and junior Caitlyn Neuman played Anita. The music was a great example of the area high school talent our schools possess but is not mentioned enough. It is even more amazing when you watch a play like this is the time and dedication the young men and women put into such a production to perform at such high quality. Some like lead Shane O'Mara balanced more than just play practice and studies as he also stared for the basketball team as well. Their performance was not only a tribute to their hard work, but to the dedication of the Garber staff and faithful as well as the youth of today. The final scene was very gripping even though most of the audience knew the storyline. Tony, distraught after hearing that Maria was dead, sought to be shot and join her in death. When she finds him, he runs to her arms only to be shot as he entered her arms. Maria is overcome with grief. She seizes the gun and for a moment threats to kill members of each gang before she takes her own life. But her love for Tony and desire to end the violence wins out as she throws the gun away and returns to Tony's body. While the stillness grips the audience realizing that Maria's hopes, dreams and lives are gone, the packed auditorium erupted in applause and standing ovations as the players were recognized for their outstanding jobs. While this year's West Side Story is now a memory, please consider catching a play at one of the other area's fine schools as she what great talent the Bay County area has to offer.

Director John VanDenBoom directs the orchestra .
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

A tussle between gangs.
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Officer Krupke and Riff.
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Riff, Diesel and company get it on .
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

A nifty dance number.
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Gang leaders and their ladies size each other up at the dance.
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Squaring off at the dance .
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Dance off at the school .
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

"I just met a girl named Maria."
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Tony serenades Maria in "Tonight"
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Tony sings to Maria
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

The Jet girls dancing to "Cool".
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

More "Cool" dancing .
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Finish the dance and song "Cool". Finish the dance and song "Cool".
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Riff and Bernardo meet to figure out the fight rules.
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Maria and Tony sing "One Hand, One Heart".
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

Bernado and Riff fight it out in the famous knife scene.
(MyBayCity Photo by John Keuvelaar)

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"The BUZZ" - Read Feedback From Readers!

vandenj Says:       On March 20, 2009 at 09:13 AM
Dear John,

What a wonderful article! You are a very talented and skilled writer and photographer. Thank you very much for doing this for our school and students. Best wishes!
Agree? or Disagree?

John Keuvelaar

John Keuvelaar is a college student at Midwest Photography Workshops and Delta College.

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