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Capital High stages lavish version of '42nd Street' this weekend

Chris Dorst
Capital High School rented costumes from New York City and the touring production's set for its performance of "42nd Street." They stage the show Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the school.

WANT TO GO?

"42nd Street"

Presented by Capital High School theater department

WHERE: Capital High School Performing Arts Center, 1500 Greenbrier St.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday

TICKETS: Adults $10, students $8

INFO: 304-348-6500CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With only a few days to go before Capital High School opens its production of "42nd Street," you'd expect nerves to be running a bit high.

For some of the younger students in the arts department, this might be only their first or second time on stage, and "42nd Street" is big. It's full of costumes and has an elaborate (and expensive) set, plus big dance numbers, singing and comedy.

None of this is easy, and a large scale musical like "42nd Street" would be a challenge for almost any small community theater troupe to take on, let alone a high school theater department. So it should be no surprise that when the question comes up, "Will everything be ready in time for opening night?" there's a long pause, followed by a burst of nervous laughter.

"It will be," Kathleen Corbett said. "But we're still in rehearsals."

Bobby Jenks said, "We've still got a few kinks to work out, but I think it will be a good production."

Kris Corbett added, "I'm comfortable that the show will turn out just fine."

Kathleen Corbett is the Fine Arts department chair. Kris Corbett teaches drama and Jenks teaches music and band. But no matter how many times they've helped shepherd one of these big musicals from start to finish, it really never gets easier. Some years, like this year, the task is massive.

"42nd Street" is a cherished and celebrated musical. It was first released as a film in 1933 and featured choreography by the legendary Busby Berkeley. In 1980, it was made into a Broadway musical that included old Hollywood numbers like "We're in the Money" and "Lullaby of Broadway."

It's a big glitzy production -- almost too glitzy to be attempted on the typical shoestring budget of most small theater groups.

"It was a big undertaking technically," explained Kris, who serves as co-director and technical director for the production. "We only got the set last week."

The set was rented from the touring production of the show. It arrived in the back of a semi truck.

"The trailer is still parked outside," he said. "The kids have had to adjust to having the set. It's been like they're part of a touring production. Most of the time, those actors have to rehearse without a set until a week or two before their tours."

"It's good experience for our students," Kathleen agreed.

And kind of a lucky break for them, too. "A set like this costs 75 to 100 thousand dollars to make," Kris said. "We got it for... a lot less."

Still, it wasn't cheap, but Kris said they raised the funds themselves.

With the set and the costumes, which are rented from New York City, their production looks gorgeous.

Presenting the musical has been in the works for a couple of years, they said.

"We like old-time musicals here," Kris said.

Kathleen added, "But we held off on this show for a while because we needed a lot of tappers. This year, Miss Legg [dance teacher A. Michelle Legg] happened to have a lot of girls who did tap."

The most difficult part of the production, the teachers said, has been managing the collaboration between the arts department's different groups.

Kris said, "Most of the time, all of us are trying to do our own thing, and now coming together to do the musical, it's tough. There's a lot of working out the scheduling."

And the music isn't easy.

Jenks said, "The majority of the students playing in the pit orchestra haven't played anything like this before."

"It's a very difficult score," Kathleen Corbett said.

"Very difficult," Jenks agreed.

Still, Jenks and the Corbetts believe the hard work will pay off. They've got a beautiful set, wonderful costumes and a cast of talented performers.

Now all they need is an audience.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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