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New West students set to bring Annie Jr. and High School Musical to the stage

Heartwarming stories and high-energy performances coming to New Westminster Secondary School stage

It’s nearly show time for New Westminster Secondary School students who will soon bring two popular musicals to the local stage.

NWSS’s musical theatre foundations class is presenting Annie Jr. on Wednesday, Jan. 17 and Friday, Jan. 19. It’s also presenting Disney’s High School Musical: One Act Edition on Thursday, Jan. 18 and Saturday, Jan. 20.

“High-energy performances. Strong character dynamics. Lots of laughs and emotions,” said Frances Monteleone, when asked what theatre-goers can expect from the shows. “It is our objective to make the audience feel, since that’s what theatre is all about.”

Monteleone, a theatre teacher at NWSS, said the upcoming productions are condensed versions of the original full- length shows and will run for approximately 70 minutes. Despite being abridged, she said they still highlight the main plot elements.   

“I think that Annie is a heartwarming story with powerful songs,” she said. “It’s a classic musical that is familiar to many and it does demonstrate that good always prevails.”

Monteleone said NWSS students produced the full-length version of Annie! in 2008 with the school's full musical theatre program, which operates under School's Out Productions. She said it's nice to be working with those same characters again. 

“HSM is a show that was super popular and had a pretty big teenage following, with many kids wanting to be Troy and Gabriella because Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgens were pretty well-liked celebrities,” she said. “It brings lots of nostalgia, and the songs are very catchy. I love the message that we are all unique and should always embrace that.”

Monteleone said the musical theatre foundations class is a non-auditioned course that’s open to all students. She said it gives students an opportunity to learn the basic skills required for this discipline and provides them with practice as NWSS prepares for its auditioned musical theatre program, which will run alongside the foundations classes next year. 

Students have been hard at work rehearsing for the upcoming productions for more than two months.

“We start the course by exploring the fundamentals of theatre skills by learning more about the required elements: acting, singing, dancing,” Monteleone said. “After we have had time to learn the basics and apply our knowledge through assessments, we start working on the shows.”

Students from Grade 9 to 12 take part in the course.

“We hope audiences will see how much passion and effort go into bringing these characters to life on the stage,” Monteleone said.

About 50 students are involved in the productions, including three who are working as members of the crew and one who is helping with directing. 

Two Grade 11 students have worked to design lighting; they’re also acting as stage managers, who will call the many technical cues for the shows.  Another Grade 11 student has been helping with direction and production elements such as costumes and scenic painting, and one student has supported the shows by sourcing projections for scenic backdrops.

“We also have strong student leaders who have offered support with choreography and vocal coaching,” Monteleone added. “This year, a few alum have returned to help support the cast. I think this speaks to the sense of community created in our program.”

Tickets to Annie Jr. and Disney’s High School Musical: One Act Edition are $10 in advance, with a limited number of cash tickets available at the door. Shows are taking place in the New Westminster Secondary School Theatre, 820 Sixth St., at 7 p.m.