By TRINA BERNAL
Yes. Bringing Broadway Home is exactly what the Benicia High Musical Theater Program did this night of Saturday, May 18th. With various pieces from Annie, Ghost, and Wicked, the characters are momentarily re-lived through these hard-working student performers; Eleanor Bettencourt (12), Kian Braulik (11), Teija Bresler (12), Casey DeLa Cruz (11), Isabella Dover-Mara (11), Kaylee Espinoza (12), Aidan Fragassi (10), student Emily Hall, Ireland Ingle (11), Kirsten Lambinicio (12), Cassidy McGuire (12), Riku Namashima (10), Gillian O’Leary (11), Angel Patee (11), Liliana Rohrer (12), and Phebe Samiljan (12.)
The night was broken up into two parts; Act I and Act II which included an amazing 15-minute musical called 21 Chump Street.
The first musical piece in Act I performed was “Easy Street” from Annie with actor-singers, Teija Bresler (12), Aidan Fragassi (10), and Kirsten Lambinicio (12). Annie is a treasured musical based on the well-known comic strip Little Orphan Annie (Harold Gray) that follows the tale of an orphan who mistakenly believes she’s left at the orphanage by accident, not by intention.
The second piece was “With You” from Ghost with soloist Ireland Ingle (11.) Ghost details the story of a murdered man named Sam who figures his way through the liminal state between life and death, and how to reach his girlfriend Molly. In this scene, Ingle embodies the heartbroken girl, Molly, left behind in the musical.
The third piece was “All the Wasted Time” from Parade performed by Kian Braulik (11) and Ann-Marie Thornton (12). Tony Award-winning Parade discusses the hardships and injustice often paired with an unfortunate story of wrongful conviction due to racial discrimination. Braulik plays Leo Frank, the alleged “perpetrator” and Thornton plays Mary Phagan, the victim.
The fourth piece was “Always True to You in My Fashion” from Kiss Me Kate performed by Angel Patee (11). Kiss Me Kate is about a self-absorbed director named Fred Graham who is coerced to act with his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi and how their hatred slowly develops back to the feeling of adoration and love they once hard for another.
The fifth piece was “Dance 10, Looks 3” from A Chorus Line performed by Eleanor Bettencourt (12.) A Chorus Line tells the tale of seventeen dancers who all strive to take a spot in the “chorus line” of a musical showcase. The one way for the dancers to do that is to gracefully expose yourself to Zach the director. And Bettencourt expertly captures the vulnerability of talking about yourself in front of an esteemed professional and sixteen peers.
The sixth piece “Secondary Characters” from Title of Show performed by Skyelar Clouse (12) and Casey DeLa Cruz (11) tells the tale of two self-proclaimed background characters named Jeff and Hunter. As the story goes on, they decide to make a name of themselves and write an original musical project to submit to a festival, even though the deadline is in three weeks. Clouse and DeLa Cruz effectively grasp the complexity and hardship the characters suffer through to become the desired writers they want to be.
The seventh piece “Two Player Game” from Be More Chill performed by Kirsten Lambinicio (12) and Cassidy McGuire (12) discusses the intricacies laced in having a sort-of Siri in your head. SQUIP (Lambinicio) is a Japanese nanocomputer that will help Jeremy Heere (McGuire) become cool, but not without its negative consequences.
The eighth piece “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess performed by Teija Bresler (12) follows a group of politicians, a love triangle, and double agents who all strive to get leverage in the US-Soviet rivalry during the Cold War.
The ninth piece “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line performed by Eleanor Bettencourt (12), Casey DeLa Cruz (11), and Ann-Marie Thornton (12) continues from Bettencourt’s prior performance.
The tenth piece “All Falls Down” from Chaplin performed by Gillian O’Leary (11) is based on true events, where Charles Spencer Chaplin turns from a poor citizen to a famous Hollywood actor.
The first piece “All ‘Er Nothin’” from Oklahoma performed by Ireland Ingle (11) and William Thompson (11) is about a cowboy named Curly (Thomspon) and a farm girl named Laurey (Ingle), and their love story.
The second piece “The Wizard and I” from Wicked performed by Kirsten Lambinicio (12) discusses the reality of a person’s identity being stolen from them before they can utter their first word, solely because of others’ shortsighted judgmental attitude. For the Good Witch of the South Galinda to be popular, there had to be someone unpopular to give her that raised ego; and that was Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West, whose skin is green and whose personality is naturally fiery.
The third piece “Why are all these Heads Off” from Lizzie performed by Denali Cannon (12), Skyelar Clouse (12), and Gillian O’Leary (11) is about an important story about how one’s tragic history can result in a tragic fate. Lizzie Borden is an alleged criminal who axed her father 41 times and stepmother 40 times.
The fourth piece “Nothing Really Happened” from Is There Life After High School performed by Casey DeLa Cruz (11) follows a character who suddenly remembers the intolerable memories from their four years of high school.
The fifth piece “The Riddle” from The Scarlet Pimpernel performed by Kian Braulik (11), Angel Patee (11) and William Thompson (11) is set during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, which was a period of time that the government sic’d reckless revenge on the sans-culottes, or urban workers.
“Safer” from First Date performed by Skyelar Clouse (12) tells the tale of Marines who intentionally pick a subjectively ugly girl named Rose, who is eventually picked by Corporal Eddie Birdlace. But little do they know, Corporal Eddie Birdlace is being played as well…
“First Date/Last Night” from Dogfight performed by Eleanor Bettencourt (12) and Angel Patee (11) play Rose and Corporal Eddie Birdlace from the aforementioned musical.
Directed by student Ann-Marie Thornton (12) and narrated by Denali Cannon (12), “21 Chump Street” is a musical based on a true story where an intelligent high school student Justin (William Thompson (11)) crushes on a beautiful transfer student Naomi (Skyelar Clouse (12)); but to his dismay, Naomi is only actually digging for dirt from Justin— trying to find out if the honors student is willing to bring the cute girl marijuana. After being courted by the smart high school student with weed, the transfer girl discloses her true identity as an undercover police whose goal is to find and expose drug dealers. “21 Chump Street” is a carefully told story highlighting the hardships associated with peer pressure and the very real consequences of dealing with drugs.
Other supporting characters are Eleanor Bettencourt (12), Kian Braulik (11), Teija Bresler (12), Casey DeLa Cruz (11), Isabella Dover-Mora (11), Kaylee Espinoza (12), Aidan Fragassi (10), student Emily Hall, Ireland Ingle (11), Kirsten Lambinicio (12), Cassidy McGuire (12), Riku Nakashima (10), Gillian O’Leary (11), Angel Patee (11), Liliana Rohrer (12), Phebe Samiljan (12) and Cole Rudeen (alumni). The musical is also choreographed by student Emily Hall, Kirsten Lambinicio (12), and Ireland Ingle (11), and Ann-Marie Thornton (12.)
The audience absolutely fell in love with every performance. Sydnie Bettencourt, Ellie Bettencourt’s mom loved watching her perform. “She practices regularly, it was awesome to see her perform as it was her last year.” And as a student of the drama department, Emma Rainier (9) wants to shout out Ann-Marie Thornton for directing because “she’s the queen to my heart.”
The student director of the musical Thornton did a fantastic job with the direction. The audience can definitely see the hard work put into overseeing the development of the musical’s performance and artistic and dramatic facets, simultaneously guiding the actors, technical crew, and musical staff around during the preparation of performance. Ms. Jennifer Thornton, Ann-Marie’s (12) mom, thought the direction of her child is “Absolutely delightful, hearing her sing made me cry. The direction she gave in her last performance was marvelous. She was the director.”
Even the performers themselves realize the hard work they had to contribute to the class to make it a great night. Phebe Samiljan (12) practices a lot; at home, in class, and sometimes in the choir room. Samiljan admits that “it’s been long, exhausting, and tiring to practice.” Samiljan also believes professionalism is expected, even at the high-school level plays and performances. Actor Kevin and Vocal Director Vivian are professionals who help out with the acting aspect and vocal part of the show.
The parent of a senior, Ms. Thornton, looks forward to watching her performing daughter Ann-Marie to perform down the road. Benicia High looks forward to the bright futures of all the musical theater students and performers. If you are interested in musical theater, Samiljan highly encourages you take a class, since “everybody in musical theater is so dedicated.” Musical theater program is an amazing group of people who practice day-in day-out, but not without having fun. Come see for yourself in their next musical theater programs in the 2019-2020 school year here at Benicia High School.