Thursday, March 13, 2008

Evita at PVPHS

The first time I saw a musical directed by Jim Bell was over 20 years ago at Palos Verdes High School where he was then teaching. The production was of Sweeney Todd and, while it seemed ambitious for a high school cast, it was a phenomenal performance. We were there because a friend's son was playing in the band and I still remember how amazed I was at the level of talent on the stage.

Jim is still teaching high school drama, now at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School (PVPHS). While our children graduated from there long ago, we still see most of the plays and musicals because son Seth is the Technical Director. So, last Sunday afternoon we were in the audience for this year's production of Evita. Jim sure does like to challenge teenagers; this is a musical rarely done by high school drama programs.

I should point out that I am not a great fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, but this was a fine production. For me, the highlight was Kirsten Chandler's choreography. While you often see talented girls dancing in high school shows, there always seems to be a lack of good movement among the boys. Not in this case! It was only the second time I can remember being mesmerized by the young men dancing in a musical production. They were outstanding and the choreography was imaginative and challenging.

Normally I don't like to single out individual actors when the entire cast does so well. But Jake Tieman in the role of Ché held the production together. I don't recall seeing him before this performance in which he demonstrated an outstanding stage presence as well as a fine voice. And I am going to mention one other cast member. Zach Barryte's family lives across the street from us. We have been friends with his entire family for many years and have watched Zach grow up. As a result, I noticed him more than I did most of the other ensemble members and was very impressed with the maturity of his onstage movement and how well he stayed in character throughout the performance.

It was truly an enjoyable afternoon and, once again, it was a pleasure seeing a Jim Bell directed production!


Cameron said...

Was there a live orchestra for the production? The music is very challenging for pros, let alone high school! I've played that show several times.

Just curious about how the music was handled in this production.

Leon said...

Sorry for the delay in responding Cameron but I hadn't seen the Tech Director (my son) in a couple of days. There was not a live orchestra for this production. The music director provided a score that was partially recorded live music and partially synthesized. Not knowing much about music myself, I hope I repeated the answer to the question I asked him accurately. :~)

Cameron said...

Thanks for answering my question, Leon. No problem about the "delay"; I wasn't holding my breath!

By the way, the touring production of Phantom is a combination of pre-recorded music, synthesizers, "Virtual Orchestra" (sort of like a synthesizer on steroids) and 12 live musicians.