Hampton students preparing to present musical comedy
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” is this year's spring musical presented by the Hampton High School Theatre Department, with performances April 13, 14, 20 and 21, all at 7:30 p.m. at the high school auditorium.
Set in New York in the 1920s, the musical comedy features playboy Jimmy Winter who meets a rough female bootlegger on the weekend of his wedding.
It features music by American composer George Gershwin and is based on the book by Joe DiPietro.
Tickets cost $10 for adults and $8 for students and can be purchased online through the district website or at the door on the night of the show.
Dan Franklin, producer and director, said the comedy is a lot of fun and a bit more light-hearted than last year's musical “Big Fish.”
“The script is hilarious. There are so many great lines in this show,” said Franklin, adding it was fun hearing the actors interpret jokes set in the 1920s.
There are about 40 in the student cast, and altogether the show features approximately 120 members which includes orchestra, backstage crews, props, make-up and more, ranging from freshmen to seniors.
Franklin is confident the show will be a good production.
“I really believe in what the students bring to the table because they always bring 100 percent,” he said.
Despite this being a newer play, he said many may recognize the Gershwin music.
Jennifer Lavella, co-director and choreographer, said the play features various types of tap, ballet, group and even a duet reminiscent of “Fred and Ginger.” She enjoyed coming up with dance numbers for the whole play, as scripts don't always come with choreography.
She said while some of the actors have a dance background, many did not.
“Quite a few had to buy tap shoes,” she said.
Her job involves listening to the music, planning the choreography, teaching it and then cleaning it up so it looks great. She gets much-needed assistance from student choreographer Elena Orban, who also plays Eileen Evergreen in the show, and assistant student choreographer Tyler Anderson, who has the lead role of Jimmy Winter.
Anderson, a senior, also played Will Bloom in last year's “Big Fish.”
“I feel like last year's play was more abstract,” said Anderson. “This year's a lot more light-hearted and easier to relate to. Plus, it's a comedy and who doesn't love comedies?”
Playing the female lead Billie Bendix is senior Caroline Collins, 17, who is also student vocal director for the musical, something that she's going to pursue in college. She said she's learned a lot working under the show's vocal director Jessica Kendall.
Student director Lilli Horvath was also a student director for “Big Fish” last year when she was a junior. This year she is helping train junior and assistant student director Olivia Brado.
“It's large. It's a huge undertaking. Mr. Franklin is an excellent mentor on how to be in charge while delegating,” said Horvath.
Franklin said Horvath has went above and beyond as student director, such as organizing the recent musical fundraiser, or encouraging fellow students to go see neighboring schools' plays so they may return the favor.
“We support them and they support us,” said Horvath.
Franklin, who is also the fine arts and theatre instructor and drama club advisor at the high school, crosses his fingers in hopes of the Annual Pittsburgh CLO Gene Kelly Awards, as “Big Fish” took home six awards last year, including Best Musical.
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” features orchestral director Ryan Meyer, technical artistic director/scenic designer Nicholas Bigatel, costume designer Lesa Demharter, and lighting designer Nathan Dunn, as well as a large student production team.
Like other theater seniors, Anderson is “devastated” to leave, but he's happy this is the play that was selected as his last one in high school, and he's planning on pursuing musical theater in college. He knows Hampton will continue its high-quality productions in the future.
“Each year keeps getting better,” said Anderson.
Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.