HAVERHILL — Art is definitely imitating life for drama students at Whittier Tech right now. Stress about what lies ahead after high school and the rocket highs and lows of teenage romance is not only part of their real, daily lives, but also what they have been practicing for long hours after school each day.
With much anticipation, the curtain will open on Whittier’s production of “High School Musical 2” on March 15 and 16 at 7 p.m. and March 17 at 2 p.m. in the school auditorium. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 at the door.
The humorous dialogue and high-energy music like “You’re the Music in Me,” “Fabulous” and “Work This Out” has encouraged the young actors to put their often tumultuous lives in perspective, they said, and garner some appreciation that may not have otherwise come until later in life.
“We can relate to the story,” said senior Nick Elwell of Haverhill, who plays lead Troy Bolton. “It deals with the fear of the future and figuring out who you are.”
“Friends are fighting, their relationships are full of emotional tension, and jealousy is high,” said Anna Slejzer, a junior from Georgetown who plays Violet.
“But, there’s so much energy and excitement, people will want to get up and dance,” said Jackie Ross, a junior from Methuen who plays Lilly.
The second lead was won by senior Tiffany Soucy of Merrimac who plays Troy’s girlfriend, Gabriella Montez. A few months ago, when she first saw her name on the cast list, she nearly fell to the floor.
“My heart dropped,” she said. “I was so happy, but at the same time so nervous to take on that kind of role.” She has acted in Whittier’s productions for all of her four years, and two weeks before show time was feeling much more comfortable. “I’m really excited,” she said. “It’s all coming together now.”
Fifty-five students will act in the show, including newcomers like junior Jared Cazmay Jr. of Merrimac, who won a part in the ensemble. He was convinced he didn’t have the same talent as his older brother, a popular actor at Pentucket High School, but took the plunge last fall and auditioned.
“I’ve been very shy and now I feel like I have courage,” he said. “I may be in the back row, but I’ve learned I have potential as an actor and I never realized how advantageous this would be. I will definitely do this next year.”
Lead Nick Elwell is also a newcomer to Whittier shows, but not to theater. “I was surprised that I received one of the leads,” he said. He has acted in community theater productions of “Hairspray,” “Foreigner” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” to name a few. “I figured I’d give it a shot and I’m glad I did,” he said. “It’s a great cast and it’s going to be a great show.”
Dozens of other students are involved in the crew and in the designing, building and painting of elaborate sets with art teacher Sharon Welch. This marks director Linda Urban’s 12th show. She has produced a full musical during each of the 12 years she has taught music at Whittier. Others include “Working,” “Grease,” “Godspell,” “Footloose,” “Les Miserables,” “The Wiz,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and two renditions of “Once Upon a Mattress.”
“I’ve learned so much,” she said. “It’s all about the process, as they say. If you work hard and make sure the kids have fun and work as a team, the end result is, it all comes together.”