WSS takes on Broadway 

High school performs Guys and Dolls during annual sold-out musical event

What: Guys and Dolls
When: Friday, March 6-Sunday, March 8, 7:30 p.m.
Where: MY Millennium Place
Tickets: Adults $15, students $10, kids $5

It's one of the most recognizable Broadway musical productions. For almost 60 years now, "Guys and Dolls" has been a hit with audiences around the world.

Frank Loesser wrote the original music and lyrics, with characters and plot elements borrowed from Damon Runyon's story, Pick the Winner. The musical was first produced on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre in 1950, directed by George S. Kaufman, and starring Robert Alda, Sam Levene, Isabel Bigley, and Vivian Blaine. Five years later, the film version, starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, was released.

Now, in 2009, Whistler Secondary School's students are tying up their dancing shoes and warming up their vocal chords in preparation for their own interpretation of the beloved musical.

On Monday afternoon, MY Millennium Place was filled with WSS students, jostling and joking as they returned to the auditorium to resume practice after a quick snack break.

Allyn Pringle is the student director of this year's production, and for the past six years, she has been involved in all the behind-the-scenes work on the musicals.

"I've never actually been in it," she said with a laugh. "I don't really like being on stage."

Ali Wake has taken on all of the choreography duties, which is a natural fit for the dancer. A former member of the competitive dance team at Soul Funktion, Wake has a background in ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, lyrical and other dance forms.

Both girls are in their final year of studies at WSS, and both have been involved in the musical in previous years. But this year, they've had to invest a lot of time and energy in preparing for the show, which features their largest cast ever. They rehearse two days each week, but Pringle and Wake spend additional time on things like costuming, scripting and choreography.

"It's a little stressful, occasionally," Pringle admitted.

They chose Guys and Dolls because, aside from the fun music and storyline, it called for a big cast that focused on not just two main leads, but four leads, as well as two secondary cast members. This year, they've also integrated live music into the production, adding piano, saxophone, clarinet, bass and drums.

Just two weeks before the curtains open, the cast is hard at work rehearsing, ironing out the kinks in the performance, and getting ready for opening show. As the loose ends are coming together, Wake and Pringle are getting excited to see the final product.

Rebecca Ford is the consulting director of the high school musical, acting as a sounding board and support for the student director, ensuring that everything is going according to plan. With a background in musical theatre, Ford has been involved in the production for five years now.

"We don't have a lot of opportunities for these kids as far as the arts are concerned," she pointed out. "We have Soul Funktion, but that's it. There's nothing else really happening."

Ford wants to ensure the musical remains a fixture in the community, especially since her own children will want to take part some day.

"It's one of those things - if it's not in place when they get to the high school..." she trailed off with a shrug.

This year, her 13-year-old son is actually getting in on the musical action early, playing trumpet and contributing to the live music aspect of this year's performance.

Working with a new student director, choreographer and cast each year, each production has proven to be a unique experience for Ford.

"It's our first director that has no dance experience, so (Allyn) was more than willing to just hand it over to Ali and Ali, of course, being such an amazing trained dancer, rose to the occasion," Ford said.

And while each year, they have a strong student turnout, this year has exceeded expectations, with over a quarter of the high school signing up.

"This is the largest group we've ever had," Ford said. "We had 70-some kids - they're not all on stage, a lot are back stage helping with sets, lighting - but it's a huge turnout."

They're also expecting it to be a sold-out show, yet again.

"I just hope people come because I don't think a lot of people in this valley are aware of the phenomenal talent that we have," Ford said.


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