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Soccer comes to stage in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘A Beautiful Game’

May 08, 2018 10:13AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Hillcrest High School students recently won the 6A state theatre title and will present "A Beautiful Game" on stage in May. (Photo courtesy of Hillcrest High School)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Think of a show structured like “West Side Story,” with the mix of dance of “Newsies,” set in North Ireland that features a soccer team, and that describes Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “A Beautiful Game.”

“This is a rarely performed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical here in the U.S. because it never was performed on Broadway,” director Josh Long said, adding that during the same time period Webber wrote this musical, he also was concentrating on “Sunset Boulevard,” which opened in New York in late 1994 and ran for 977 performances.

Hillcrest High School will be the first Utah high school to premiere “A Beautiful Game,” at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, May 19 in their auditorium, 7350 S. 900 East. Tickets are $10 and are available on hillcresttheatre.com.

“The setting brings in all the conflicts in Ireland that have gone on for years. It takes place in the 1970s with a high school soccer team which focuses on the attempt to overcome the political and religious violence that has engulfed their community,” Long said.

In preparing for the musical, the 36-member productions company studied about the conflicts and will have background information available in the program. There also will be a seminar before the shows at 6:15 p.m., upstairs in the theatre room.

In addition, Long has watched Hillcrest boys soccer team and talked to the coach about the plays in preparation for his theatre students to perform dance that highlights the sport.

“The new coach is a theatre fan so he has been really helpful and we’ve been incorporating movements into the dances,” he said, adding that the class has worked on the choreography since January. “We have a large group of young men who are athletic and we wanted to highlight their abilities and this show does that.”

The leads were cast in March with Spencer Sanders as John Kelly; Annee Burton as Mary; Jared Burton as Thomas Malloy; Garrett Cole as Father O’Donnell; Cedi Christensen as Bernadette; Lindsay Kenner as Christine; Bennett Chew as Del; Luke Morley as Ginger O’Shaughnessy; and Scotty Abbott as Daniel Gillen. All lead actors are seniors. The stage manager is sophomore Aaliyah Kaluza-Walkes.

The show also ties into the theme of the theatre season, Long said.

“We’ve seen how young men have reacted to tragedy with anger, violence and revenge instead of by crying or dealing with it in a healthy way,” he said, outlining the productions of “Les Miserables,” “Dunsinane,” their own Shakespearean compilation and their first place regional competition piece, “Watch on the Rhine.”

In mid-April, they competed at the state level with the 1941 American play by Lillian Hellman about a German-born husband and father who, while in the U.S., had been detected as being involved in the anti-Fascist underground by a German conspirer.

They also were named Utah’s first 6A state champions, with first place wins by Spencer with an outstanding performance in a play; Luke and Joseph Tew in dramatic monologues; and Nikolas Vidal and Joshua Talbot in humorous monologues. Third-place finishes went to Annee Burton and Ariel Elegante in humorous monologues; Sterling Larson, Maddie Elledge and Misha Cottan in classical scenes; and Syncere Bradford, Matthew Olshewski, Lizzy Campbell and Emma Cox in pantomime.

Long said that through all the productions, they have explored how to make peace in the world. 

“This musical features soaring ballads, an intense story, and incredible choreography dance, soccer, and the fight for a world without violence,” he said.

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