In June of 1983, my friend Karen Schoka and I graduated from South Lakes High School, only the third graduating class from this brand-new school. We belonged to Mrs. Waddell and the blue subschool. We were definitively 'band geeks.'
We loved the side benefits of being at South Lakes - as the newest school in Fairfax County, we got some of the best stuff - great accoustics in the band room; new instruments to rent; non-grafiittied bathroom stalls; awesome trips with the band to New York City, Atlanta and various other places Mr. Draeger took us to compete and have fun.
Over the weekend, we came back. Karen is now Karen McGuire, and I am now Lexa Newman Fisher. We brought our husbands to see my son's second cousin - Ben Peter, a SLHS junior - play the role of Tony in West Side Story in The Little Theatre at South Lakes. It was packed. Yesterday was the third night of six, and the theatre was full.
The props were incredible. There is a scene where Tony sits in a stairwell beneath Doc's shop, and in between scenes, the kids rolled this out from the door in the 'brick wall' and then back again after the scene was finished. The curtain, painted with the scene of the waterfront was exquisite. The stage looked and felt like a playground, a dance floor, a bedroom, and a waterfront pier in its respective 'clothes.'
The pit orchestra didn't want to be photographed, but they were awesome too! Such music. Keeping tempo with actors who don't necessarily keep tempo with musicians is tough when you are a professional. These kids did it. And there were two OBOES - Two of them! It was the extra bonus that a canned music track could have NEVER provided. We former band geeks were terrifically awed by them.
The actors. Oh, well, the actors. Were some of these kids classically trained somewhere? The young lady who recently moved from Sri Lanka (Megan DiSisti) performing as a Puerto Rican girl arguing the merits of being back home in Puerto Rico vs being in "AmERica!" She could dance like no teen I've ever seen perform in a high school show.
And last night's Maria! Ariana Kruszewski can sing. She made a beautiful Maria, who drew us all into their world of toughts and sentimentality. She made us tear up, and smile. She was the source of many of my exhaling "Wows."
Then there was her Tony. Perhaps I am a little biased, but let's be honest, that whole entire cast and crew had more talent in their respective little fingers than I do in my whole being. Ben Peter as Tony was a wonderful casting coup. His facial expressions alone told the audience his story! I would love to be able to go back next weekend and see him play Tony opposite the "other" Maria, Helen Slivinski, who played the role of Anita last night with such a gorgeously Puerto Rican flair! She too, could "leave it all out on the floor"* with her dancing.
I don't think such talent was available when I went to school at South Lakes. At least not theatrical, singing and dancing. We had talent at South Lakes, but not like this!
And it is a pleasure, as someone who works in a high school, to see that the school I went to is able to generate such parental support and such financial support to be able to put on a show like this. I know that it took an incredible amount of money, parent power, and teacher power to motiviate, clothe, and inspire this incredible cast of kids to perform as though they belonged on Broadway and prove to us in the audience that Broadway would be proud to have them.
* This is a line borrowed from her cast biography that she attributed to her dance coach, Terlene Terry Todd of the Essence Dance Company.