CHESTER will take on the status of the West End during the next six weeks as high schools stage hit musicals.
From Hairspray to Les Misérables, Buddy to West Side Story, talented students will tread the boards across the city.
This week and next JO HENWOOD goes behind the scenes to talk to the actors, singers, dancers and musicians as they tune up for their opening night
NERVES will be jangling at Upton, Queen’s Park and St David’s high schools this weekend as directors put the finishing touches to three hit musicals which open next week.
Upton sixth former Greg Russell will be fine-tuning his American accent to take on the eponymous role in the jukebox musical Buddy..
Based on the short life of rock and roller Buddy Holly, the Upton production has a cast and crew of 187 students.
Director Chris Tierney said: “Any student who wanted to be involved could be. We auditioned for the main parts but no-one was turned away.”
On a smaller scale, 30 pupils from Years 9 to 13 at St David’s High School in Saltney are presenting Willy Russell’s Liverpool-based comedy musical Our Day Out.
Year 12 student Lauren Faulkner plays Mrs Kay, the teacher in charge of a school trip for children with special needs.
“We started working on the show just after Christmas,” said Lauren, who lives in Saltney. “It’s been a heavy rehearsal schedule with four or five sessions a week.”
Lauren, a music BTEC and ICT student, is no stranger to the stage. She played Tallulah in a school production of Bugsy Malone and Mrs Sowerberry in another of Oliver!.
Queen’s Park High School sixth former Joel Pearson is getting to grips with his alter ego as he gets over-dressed for his role in the Broadway and West End hit Hairspray.
Joel, 17, plays Tracy Turnblad’s mum Edna, a drag role made famous by John Travolta in the 1988 John Waters’ film and brought to life on the West End stage by Michael Ball and Phill Jupitus.
“The costume is big!” laughed Joel. “I have to be padded out quite a lot, but it feels great!”
Lead role Tracy is played by 18-year old Becky Williams who is keeping in tune for the hit numbers which include I Can Hear the Bells and You Can’t Stop the Beat.
“We’ve been working closely with our music teacher Clare Phillips who has taught us all the songs,” she said. “She makes sure we warm up properly so that we can do the best we can.”
While half term will come as a welcome rest for the 300 youngsters involved in these shows, it will also serve to charge the batteries of those who will return to school for the next round of big hits in March.
See next week’s Chronicle for news of the musicals on offer at Abbey Gate College, Christleton, King’s and Queen’s schools.