Go see high school performances

Posted 11/23/22

To the Editor,

My wife and I are season ticket holders at the Providence Performing Arts Center and are used to seeing some truly great performances by nationally-known touring groups.  While …

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Go see high school performances


To the Editor,

My wife and I are season ticket holders at the Providence Performing Arts Center and are used to seeing some truly great performances by nationally-known touring groups.  While we've also seen some poor performances there, productions such as last week's Les Misérables and previous performances of Phantom of the Opera, Tina, and Book of Mormon were all productions to rave about.  We've seen some equally good productions at The Gamm Theater right here in Warwick.

So, when we decided to attend the high school performance of Rock of Ages at Warwick's Pilgrim High School last week, we were prepared for...well, a high school level performance.  I can confidently say that, high school level or not, the performance was extremely well done and worth every cent of the admission price. 

Were the actor, singers and dancers PPAC-level performers?  Of course not.  Although a couple of them may well end up on the big stage some day.  What the performers lacked in talent and experience they more than made up for in energy, exuberance and outright determination to give their audience a night of memorable entertainment--and they did.

The three "stars" were superb considering their ages and levels of experience.  Benjamin Passarelli, starring as the show's Drew Boley--an aspiring singer new to L.A., and Princess Johnson, playing the role of Sherrie Christian--a recent arrival seeking an acting career, did wonderful jobs both singing and acting.  Benjamin appeared to be the best singer on the stage, while Princess was a superior actor.  Outshining them both, however, was John Dean, who played the fictional Bourbon Room's sound manager and who also narrated breaks during the show with comedy worthy of nationally-known stars.  From his voice, to his facial expressions, to his body language, Dean exuded comedy.  Should he pursue it, he will clearly go far in professional theater. 

Other performers, too many to mention by name, also did commendable work on stage--singing, acting and dancing.  Providing bursts of energy and comic relief were Kaylee Lowe as the lead protester and Antonio Paglianni as a somewhat hapless German immigrant whose only desire, besides capturing Kaylee's heart, was to make good chocolate. 

Backing up the lead and supporting actors were the ensemble cast, the dancers, and the unseen crew--all of whom did yeoman's work that brought well-deserved credit to their school. 

Particularly impressive was the inclusiveness of the production.  I saw very confident high school seniors spread throughout the cast along with many, somewhat awkward, unsure freshmen who reminded me that this was, indeed, an amateur performance.  The cast was also quite diverse, with all the school's racial groups represented. 

Our 13-year old grandson plans to attend a performing arts high school next year.  I could practically see him on the stage along side the other hesitant but determined freshmen who were acting and dancing their hearts out in Rock of Ages. 

Besides the crew who built the props and manned the lights, the sound system, and the video equipment, behind-the-scenes credit for the well-done performance goes to Pilgrim drama teacher and producer, Richard Denningham, who has energized the Pilgrim Players Drama Club for years; the production's two music directors, Mrs. Laura Jenkins and Ms. Elena Roson; and to the choreographer, Mrs. Jenna A. Tremblay-Reilly.  Let's hope they all stick around for years to help make future productions that will compete with Rock of Ages.

The bottom line for my wife and me was this:  Go see some high school theatrical productions!  They provide evenings of great fun!  The price is right ($12, $7 for seniors); the seating is comfortable; every seat has a great view; the entertainment is enjoyable and memorable; and, most of all, it will make you feel a true part of your community as you support our city's youth.

Based on the raucous applause from the 250 or so people in the audience at Rock of Ages, you will surely enjoy such high school performances as much as my wife and I did.       

Lonnie Barham



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