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'West Side Story' Opens

'West Side Story' Opens image
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The tradition of staging modern "Broadway" musical shows at Ann Arbor High school (now Pioneer High every two years began in 1959 with Lerner and Lowe's "Brigadoon," directed b y John Merrill (now vice president of the National Music Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy), and assisted by Clarence Roth and Ronald Dawson. The success of this show resulted in a more ambitious production of "The King and I" in 1961. The music of Rogers and Hammerstein, the addition of a chorus of 24 children from the music and drama classes of the public schools, and the original costumes created for the school culminated in s o 1 d-out performances. Two years later came Meredith W i 1 1 s o n ' s "The Music Man," followed in 1965 by another Willson musical, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." And in 1967 the best so far, Lerner and Lowe's "My Fair Lady," one of the finest musical shows ever conceived, was presented on the Ann Arbor High stage to critical acclaim. The productions w e r e initiated to use the talents of all branches of the performing arts, and, from the beginning, musicians, actors, dancers, chorus, and stagecraft crews have been blended together in these major shows. Robert Pratt, chairman of Pioneer High's music department, has assumed overall direcüon for the musicals since "The King and I" and again leads the orchestra and coordinates the other directors. Ronald Dawson, in charge of the stagecraft crew and sets, has been a member of the musical's staff since the inception. Charles Gabrion, director of the orchestra, not only trained the musicians who will accompany the performa n c e, but a 1 s o had to rescore the music for this show. Michael Harrah, trained in the U-M drama department and now a drama teacher and forensics coach at Pioneer High, is in charge of the actors and staging for West Side Story. ■ "West Side Story" is the most ambitious performance yet from a dance standpoint, and choreographer P h i 1 Stamps, a professional dancer fprmerly with the Destine Dance Troupe, now teaching in Ann Arbor and EMU, has woven dance throughout the entire show. The entire "company" of more than 200, mostly from Pioneer High, but with the addition of severál Hurón High students, will present their first performance, a matinee, for sixth gradcrs on Tuesday, give another matinee for a secondary school audience on Thursday, and open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights. Only a few tickets are left for next weekend's show, but those lucky enough to get in will see why Ann Arbor theater goers heartily support this new "tradition."