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“Tonight, Tonight:” Opening night of ‘West Side Story’ at Albany High School

April 18, 2013

by Nina Scibelli

The Albany High School Theatre ensemble presents the opening of “West Side Story” tonight at 7 p.m. As people excitedly and anxiously await the first performance, the final day of production is here.

This rendition of Sondheim and Bernstein’s 1963 Broadway masterpiece has taken about four months to formulate. Directors, cast, and crew involved have committed to rehearsals every weekday from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. There is a cast of 37 actors, and a network of student leaders guided by 6+ adults who have helped with this production.

Principal Cecily Wilson, who plans to come out and see the performance, has observed a few rehearsals this season and is wowed by how much effort has been put into the show.

“The students are here for many hours each day perfecting their performance, designing the set, and more. There is a lot of effort that goes into every aspect of the show. Even the parents get involved, providing food and refreshments for those last dress rehearsals,” said Wilson.

The musicals that Albany High produces each year have been nothing but beneficial to the students as well as to the community.

Students rehearsing the musical number "Cool"

Albany HS students rehearsing the musical number “Cool”

“I think it is an integral part of the student experience at Albany High School for the students that participate as well as for the audience that has the benefit of watching them perform,” said Wilson.

Director Ward Dales held auditions in late November, with rehearsals starting shortly after. He has always admired “West Side Story” and chose to take it on this year. The AHS Theatre ensemble is known to have quite the reputation, with Dales to thank.

“Mr. Dales is well-respected by staff and students alike for the incredible energy and effort he puts into each production. He makes sure that the resources and personnel are in place to support the students to create their best product,” said Wilson.

While the play was controversial in its time, Dales does not believe that this show sends out the same message today.

“When it came out 50 years ago, it tackled racism—directly in the face of the country’s turbulent civil rights movement. It is too simplistic in its treatment of racism to address the debilitating conundrum of institutionalized racism, which is the scourge of our time,” said Dales.

Dales is proud of the progress of this production and what everyone involved has put into it.

“I continue to be amazed at the ability of our students and faculty to rise to any challenge I put to them. This show—with its intense dancing and brutally challenging score—is Herculean,” said Dales.

The students have thoroughly enjoyed working on this production as well. “They love the work,” said Dales.

One student, Bryana Greer, who will be playing the role of “Anita,” is excited for tonight.

She has had an incredible experience working on this show, loved being able to dance, and thinks of the other cast members as her family.

“I think it’ll go really well,” said Greer. “My family and friends are all coming to support me.”

Other students, faculty, and community members not involved in the production are glad that the AHS Theatre ensemble is putting on this particular show—which deals with some difficult themes through its music and dancing.

“Our Drama program has always taken on a variety of topics which highlight our students’ ability to perform in any genre and serve as a jumping off point for important conversations,” said Wilson, who is extremely proud and impressed at every show she attends. “It is amazing to watch my high school students transform into these characters and engulf you in the story.”

Performances will be tonight, April 18, Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20 at 7 p.m, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 21.

Tickets will be $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. The play will take place in the Albany High School auditorium at 700 Washington Ave, Albany.

E-mail Dales at for further information or to purchase tickets.


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