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Published: Thursday, 7/13/2006

Stages take on a youthful look

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A good omen for the future of live theater takes place this weekend in Toledo and the area: Three youth troupes are presenting summer productions, helping to create another generation of performers and theatergoers.

Their offerings run the gamut from classics of the stage to contemporary works.

Here in Toledo, the Young Rep, the educational outreach arm of the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, presents West Side Story, the award-winning musical with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

"It's the full story, not changed at all for the kids," said director Libby Lane in a telephone interview.

"The kids" refers to her cast of 35, ages 13 to 19.

"We had over 90 kids from the area auditioning for the show," she said. "Getting it down to 35 means we really do have the cream of the crop of area high school talent. It's incredible."

West Side Story, loosely based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, deals with young love, racial tensions, and gang warfare in New York City.

Lane said the biggest problem she's had with her young cast is that everyone is so darn friendly and that doesn't easily translate into the intense body language that West Side Story demands.

"They understand on the surface, but they have trouble getting into the gang mentality. We're working hard on conveying intensity at all times."

Heading the large cast are Cassie Zahm as Maria, Drew Ochoa as Tony, Nick Gordon as Bernardo, and Rebecca Barrow as Anita.

Barrow is also the choreographer and dance director.

West Side Story, presented by the Young Rep, is scheduled at 7 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, 16 Tenth St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Information: 419-243-9277.

Teen rebellion is the order of the day in Sandusky County, at least on the stage when the Fremont Community Teen Theatre presents Footloose.

Written by Dean Pitchford, the 1984 movie starred Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack, a Chicago youth who moves with his family to a small rural town where rock music and dancing have been banned. Unable to live without either, Ren leads the way in standing up to the close-minded town and its repressive ordinance.

Pitchford, along with Walter Bobbie and Tom Snow, adapted the screenplay for the stage, and it opened on Broadway in October, 1998, running for almost two years and earning four Tony nominations.

The Fremont production stars Mason Lowry of Oak Harbor as Ren and Ali Woodruff of Fremont as Ariel, the daughter of the town's powerful minister. It is directed by Jason Kramer of Toledo and Stephanie Opfer of Perrysburg. Kirsten Kunkle of Fremont is the music director.

Other northwest Ohio cities represented by the large cast are Bellevue, Bettsville, Clay Center, Clyde, Gibsonburg, Green Springs, Lindsey, Marblehead, and Tiffin.

"Footloose" opens tomorrow and runs through July 23 in the Fremont Community Theatre, 1551 Dickinson St., Fremont. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets for the Fremont Community Teen Theatre production are $10. Information: 419-332-0695.

The Young Rep's show is based on a play and the Fremont show is based on a movie, so it makes a kind of symmetry that the Perrysburg Summer Youth Theater Program's production is based on a novel, Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Kevin Thiel plays the "yankee," who in this production has been turned into a modern American teenager who wakes up to find himself in Olde England. Elizabeth Emmert and John Henzler are co-directors; they are assisted by Trent Dorner.

The show is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and July 20 in the Beck auditorium of the Commodore Building, 140 East Indiana Ave., Perrysburg. Tickets are $5. Information: 419-873-2787.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at:

ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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