Youth heading to the West Side

Comox Valley Youth Music Centre students are tackling one of the most challenging musicals of all time

Mark Allan

Special to the Record

Comox Valley Youth Music Centre students are tackling one of the most challenging musicals of all time.

Director Lori Mazey has no doubt that the young singers/dancers/actors will rise to the occasion as they take West Side Story from page to stage.

“CYMC is such a gigantic commitment … because it’s so intense, three weeks of unbelievable intensity,” she says in an interview.

Rehearsing and performing this particular musical is likely to be more intense than usual, indicates Mazey, who directed West Side Story 14 years ago for Rainbow Youth Theatre.

“The music is amazing and fantastic and never gets old,” Mazey says of the score by Leonard Bernstein. “It’s very difficult music.

“It’s not simple pop tunes. The time signature will change every second bar or every bar sometimes.”

The characters are in their teens, which presents another challenge.

“It’s one of those difficult shows to cast because you kind of need trained opera singers to do the music but for the story to be believable, you need people who are young enough to be believable in those situations.”

What would Mazey, who also teaches in Vanier Secondary School’s award-winning improv comedy program, say to people who hesitate to go to CYMC productions because it’s just kids onstage?

“These are people who spend the bulk of their time and energy getting better at what they do. There are people there who spend 20 hours per week or more dancing.”

“There are people in the show who have spent their whole lives training as singers or actors. You’d be hard-pressed to see a community theatre production with older people in it that would necessarily be better.”

Why is this tale of feuding New York City gangs the Sharks and the Jets in the 1950s an enduring classic?

“This is one more incarnation of Romeo and Juliet and the idea of star-crossed lovers and the idea of something good coming out of something bad,” Mazey ventures.

“In both Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, there’s a glimpse of hope at the end, albeit tiny in West Side Story, it’s still there.”

Mazey understands what CYMC students experience because she used to be one. “I did one show when I was 11 and I did another show when I was 16.”

After returning from university, she volunteered one summer with props and assistant stage management, subsequently teaching, then directing for the first time in 2011.

As a director each summer since then, Mazey starts planning the next year’s musical theatre production almost as soon as the current one is finished.

“When we get into the production itself, it’s pretty much 12- to 14-hour days, sometimes more.”

Teamwork and good communication between the director, choreographer and musical director is essential, Mazey notes.

“It’s probably one of the single most important things, being able to see eye to eye in the storytelling.”

Mazey as director will work extremely closely with choreographer Lindsay Sterk.

“The acting and dance just lead into one another. It’s hard to tell where one begins and the other one ends sometimes.

“I’m really lucky because Lindsay Sterk and (musical director) Shannon Tyrell are an amazing group of people who are passionate about what they do, incredibly experienced and creative. We work really well together.”

After a CYMC musical theatre student showcase July 5 at Mark Isfeld Secondary, West Side Story performances run from July 14 to 18.

Tickets are on sale at sidwilliamstheatre.com or by phoning  250-338-2430.

Founded as a summer retreat for the Vancouver Junior Symphony Orchestra, CYMC is in its 48th year. Jazz and classical music are other programs.

For details about CYMC and 2015 public concerts, visit cymc.ca.

 

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