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Hillcrest High theatre students ready for season-opener

Oct 03, 2017 04:15PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Hillcrest High’s theatre students visit the Brooklyn Bridge during their trip to New York City. (Collin Voeller)

After a trip to the Big Apple, where Hillcrest High theatre students had the opportunity to see eight shows including Tony Award-winning shows, “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hello Dolly!,” and participate in six workshops with actors, teachers and technicians, they already are in rehearsal for their season opener, “Les Miserables.”

“It was a jam-packed week of educational experiences and the kids completely soaked it all up,” Hillcrest Theatre Director Josh Long said. “We had discussions every evening before and after the shows where we discussed all of the different aspects of the productions. We (go) earlier (in the school year) so the kids can see what professional theatre looks like before they try their hand at it throughout the year.”

The New York City trip wasn’t just for Hillcrest actors.  The stage crew participated in workshops and backstage tours with the production of “1984” on Broadway. They also analyzed the design aspects of each of the shows and studied all of the professional designers, he said.

Before taking “Les Mis” to their own stage, students were slated to participate Thursday, Sept. 28 through Saturday, Sept. 30 in the 41st annual junior high and high school Shakespeare competition, hosted by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University in Cedar City.  Hillcrest, which has won four sweepstake championships and eight ensemble championships in the past 10 years, planned on having 56 students compete both on stage as well as in the Tech Olympics.  

“Our big ensemble scene this year is a compilation of scenes from five or six different plays exploring the masculine fragility in war — the contrast between violence and grief,” Long said.

The 300-member cast of “Les Mis” takes the stage Thursday, Nov. 16 through Saturday, Nov. 18 and again, Monday, Nov. 20 at Hillcrest High.  

Les Miserables, which premiered in Paris in 1980, is based on Victor Hugo’s five-part novel set during the French June Rebellion of 1832.  It was the Tony Award-winning best musical in 1987 and has been performed in 22 languages in more than 40 countries.  “Les Mis” tells the story of the former convict Jean Valjean, who spends a lifetime seeking redemption. While forging a new life in Paris and discovering true love, he is hunted by Inspector Javert and the ghosts of his past. 

Senior Bennett Chew will play the role of Jean Valjean; senior Nathanel Abbot plays Inspector Javert; senior Dakota Heugly is Fantine and junior Aleisha Meier will perform as Cosette.

Hillcrest actors will return to their Little Theatre stage in 2018 with “The Farnsworth Invention,” Jan. 12-15 and Jan. 16. Created by Aaron Sorkin, best known for the television show “The West Wing” and motion pictures “The Social Network” and “A Few Good Men,” the Broadway play follows Utahn Philo T. Farnsworth and the race for the invention of the television.  

“I am most excited about is the writing of it,” Long said. “He turns this story into a really intriguing thriller almost. When I read it I was captivated wondering what was going to come next.”

Just nine days after “The Farnsworth Invention” closes, “Is He Dead?” opens in the school auditorium.  Performed Jan. 25-27, the show is a farce written by Mark Twain where French painter Jean Francois Millet appears as his great aunt at his own fictitious death to ensure fame and increase the value of his paintings.  

The play was written in 1898, but it wasn’t published until 2003 after it was discovered in the archives of University of California at Berkeley.  It premiered on Broadway in 2007.

In March, Hillcrest theatre students will perform, “Dinsinane.”  Originally premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Scotland in 2010, David Greig’s sequel to “Macbeth” will have its first American production at Hillcrest High School.

The play, named after a Scottish village, picks up where William Shakespeare left off as Britain invades Scotland and were met unexpectedly by the Scottish leader Lady Macbeth, who did not kill herself as previously reported.  Instead, she leads an army of women warriors in her attempt to enforce her first marriage and right to the throne.

The show will be performed March 16-17 and March 19 in the auditorium.

“The Beautiful Game” is a lesser known musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote well-known favorites “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  Setting the 1970 riots in Ireland against the backdrop of a high school soccer team, this musical features ballads, combined with an intense story and choreography.  

Billed at the school as “a mix of ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Newsies,’” the show, which will be performed May 17-19, will feature “dance, soccer and the fight for a world without violence.”

In addition to regular show tickets, Hillcrest theatre will offer season tickets.  For more information, visit www.hillcresttheatre.com.

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