In technicolor at Forest Grove High
On the Tuesday after Halloween, and with the final bell, most of Forest Grove High School's student body board their buses and head home.
But for dozens of students in the school's drama club, their day is just getting started.
The Forest Grove High School drama club meets at at 3:30 p.m. sharp, and the room is buzzing. Students are sewing, others rehearsing lines. A small handful are talking to director John Anderberg.
The Forest Grove Performing Arts Department is preparing for its fall production, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," a musical retelling of the story of Joseph, found in the book of Genesis in the Bible. The play opens Thursday, Nov. 8, at the high school's auditorium.
The cast and crew are a culmination of more than 50 students, including a youth chorus of students from across the Forest Grove School District.
The musical itself, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, first hit the stage 50 years ago, making this year the perfect opportunity to share the Broadway musical with the community, Anderberg said.
Choosing this play was personal for Anderberg, who took over as FGHS' drama director this year.
"This was the first musical I heard as a kid," he said. "I really felt we had the cast for it."
Rehearsals have been underway since the start of the school year, and the group has been working hard ever since, Anderberg said.
The popular show has been performed thousands of times at schools and amateur theater groups across the country. The show allows audiences to go along on a journey as dream interpreter Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, making his way into a pharaoh's inner circle.
Forest Grove High senior Jordan Di Nocenzo plays the lead, and isn't a stranger to life on the stage. He previously performed at Theatre in the Grove for "Jesus Christ Superstar," another Lloyd Webber classic.
Alongside him is fellow senior Alexis Walker as the role of the narrator, who guides the audience through the whimsy of Joseph's highs and lows.
Walker and Di Nocenzo sit together at drama club and they click. Not only are they co-stars, but the pair also collaborate with Anderberg on prepping the show for opening night.
"I want my students to do the work themselves and is their chance to experience this," Anderberg said. "The students get a lot of input, so they can get a feel of what goes into a production."
When rehearsals began, both Walker and Di Nocenzo brought in fresh ideas to an older musical, Anderberg said.
"Even from the get go, the first number we have, it has been shown so many ways, but the first day we did it, Alexis and I were able to say what we want to see in it," Di Nocenzo said. "John is great having student input on what we want to see."
Not only is student participation vital, Anderberg said, it's growing. Forest Grove High started a student-run performing arts council this year, to help promote students who want to thrive in the arts.
"We have one theater class, it is more like an intro to theater production," Di Nocenzo said. "This is what we have. We have been brought down to one class where other 6A schools have huge programs for drama. (The performing arts council) really matters."
Encouraging the arts is about being creative, Anderberg said.
"To see the product at the end of the day and knowing they can be proud of themselves — (students) can do amazing things when they get the chance," Anderberg said.
Both Di Nocenzo and Walker want to lead musical careers after high school, with Walker wanting to study voice and Di Nocenzo planning to teach music.
When asked about prepping for their roles, both students share that gaining musical production experience will translate in their future.
"For me, getting ready for my role was difficult because I go between being a teacher and telling a story," Walker said. "I had to create a name for her and a kind of persona of her other than, 'I am telling a story.' Because I am in choir, and music is my passion and I want to be a voice major, it fits the narrative for me because it's what I want to do in my career."
Walker said the audience should look forward to how Forest Grove High interprets "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," which she describes as comedic.
"People should come because everyone is working on this, not just actors and a director," Di Nocenzo said. "People who are publishers, want to go into advertising, costumers, people in this school that come afterward to help out. Even adults come out and help on set. I see it as one of the biggest community events at this school."
The musical is two acts and lasts about an hour and 40 minutes, highlighting songs like "Any Dream Will Do," "Go, Go, Go Joseph," and "Pharoah's Story."
"The show is uplifting and there are tons of reasons to do theater — for me this is about letting loose and have a good time," Anderberg said. "It is great to come and see what the students do."
Opening night performance Nov. 8 begins at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium. Other performances are Nov. 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 at 7 p.m.
Ticket prices are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students, with group rates are available. The Nov. 10 performance will host a reception after the show to honor former Forest Grove High School Musical Theatre Directors' Bonnie McCabe and Gary McJunkin.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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