UHS cast ready to rumble – and impress

Cast members of Unionville High's 'West Side Story' get the jump on one of their routines during a rehearsal.

A rumble will rock Unionville High from Thursday, March 12, until Saturday, March 14, but it’s no cause for concern.

Emboldened and inspired by the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, a talented group of students will face off as Sharks and Jets in a production of “West Side Story.” Originally staged on Broadway in 1957, the award-winning musical focuses on the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs.

Karalyn Joseph and Abu Akki are starring in Unionville High's production of 'West Side Story.' Photo by Greg Joseph

Karalyn Joseph and Abu Akki are starring in Unionville High's production of 'West Side Story.' Photo by Greg Joseph

The story focuses on Tony - played by senior Abu Akki - a former member of the Jets, a Caucasian gang. As the best friend of the Jets’ leader, Riff (senior Samir Streatfield), Tony heads for trouble when he falls in love with Maria (sophomore Karalyn Joseph), the sister of Bernardo (senior Ryan Nilsen), the leader of the Sharks, a Puerto Rican group that’s taunted by the Jets.

Tony and Maria’s timeless struggle to survive in a world of prejudice, vengeance, and violence is underscored with riveting dance, drama and music. A 1961 film version of the musical won 10 of the 11 Academy Awards for which it was nominated.

Director Scott Litzenberg said the cast represents a superb mix of high school veterans as well as new talent, such as Joseph and Ashley Lennick, another sophomore who plays Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend. Litzenberg said they are effectively complemented by a terrific stage crew, tech crew, dancers and musicians.

“I’m just floored by the talent and what these kids have been able to accomplish,” Litzenberg said. “They’ve just been tearing it up.”

Litzenberg said many high school productions of “West Side Story” omit some of the more difficult sequences. “We haven’t cut one measure of music,” he said. “This is truly one of the iconic musicals of Broadway, and I think people are going to be amazed to see ‘West Side Story’ being done at this high level.”

Proof that the cast has excelled? Litzenberg said the weather has not adversely impacted the show, even with some missed rehearsals. “We’re ahead of the game,” he said on Thursday, March 5, one of the snow days. “I’m not feeling stressed, and I don’t think the kids are, either.”

Another indication of the show’s quality is the fact that advance ticket sales are exceeding expectations, Litzenberg explained. He said more than half of the seats for Friday and Saturday have already been sold, and he urged people to make their purchases as soon as possible. “It’s going to be a tough ticket to get,” he predicted.

In addition to Streatfield and Akki, the Jets include Ethan Pan, Noah Gregory, Eli Sheppard, Cameron Cofrancesco, Justin Bowen, Justin Best and Marc Cobuzzi. Besides Nilsen, Joseph, and Lennick, the Sharks are Jordan Fortunato, Ashwin Akki, Troy Macie, Matt van Aken and Noah Friedman.

The Jets' girls are Maddie Csernica, Lainey Duncan, Eva Sheppard, Alli Harris, Annie Klingenberg, Caroline Salisbury and Hillary Zhang. The Sharks' entourage includes Carly Rechenberg, Emily Shiring, Jessica Oehler, Annie Ward, Abby Francis, Mahalet Tegenu, and Daphne Ho. Joe Siehl plays Doc and Charley Bloomfield  is Schrank; Ben Greaves is Krupke and Charlie Bloomfield plays Glad Hand.

Advance tickets are available for $12 at www.showtix4u.com. They will also be sold the night of the show for $14, adults; and $12 for students and senior citizens. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. in the Unionville High School Auditorium.



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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.



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