Drury High School presents 'Amadeus' this weekend

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Photo Gallery | The Drury Stage Company presents 'Amadeus'

NORTH ADAMS — Deception and delusions, echoing whispers and Pompadour wigs, fog machines and Mozart masterworks — that's what Drury High School's spring production of the play, "Amadeus" is made of.

The show opened on Thursday, and continues to run at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the school's Drury Performing Arts Center.

The production is an ambitious 180-degree turn from the school's fall production of the 1920s-era gambling gangster musical, "Guys and Dolls."

Drury is performing the sixth edition of Sir Peter Shaffer's 1979 stage play, "Amadeus," which went on to earn a 1981 Tony Award for "Best Play," and was adapted into the 1984 Academy Award-winning film of the same name. Director Kate Caton said she's made some adaptations to include nuances from Shaffer's first edition of the play, as well as the popular film.

She said she chose this production because, "It's rare to find this kind of cast to do this complex show. It particularly accentuates the talents of our seniors, who are so good, so talented and so committed to this production. They've studied it and embraced it."

About 50 students, teachers, and designers worked together on the show, which is supported by the fall's box office funds and grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

According to the Samuel French company, only a handful of high schools buy the rights to the production each year. West Springfield's Majestic Theater will take it on in 2017.

Set in 18th-century Vienna, "Amadeus" is a dramatic work of historical fiction that questions whether or not Italian court composer Antonio Salieri — overcome with his own mediocrity and contempt — orchestrated the death of rising prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It's a deep, fascinating, and lengthy (nearly 3 hours) piece that runs the risk of not attracting the same crowds and the high school perennial favorite production, "Grease."

In a BroadwayWorld.com blog post about the production, even Caton acknowledged, "To be honest, this venture has been a bit overwhelming. As I listen to the masterworks of Mozart, I am constantly thinking: Will this award winning play hold our community's interest? How will Mozart and Salieri's lives, intertwined with deceit and vengeance, transfer to our school community?"

Senior Jacob Keplinger, who plays the title character, also had his doubts about doing the show in a high school.

"I was not really thrilled about it at first," he said, "But I've grown to like it and appreciate what it is."

Since January, students and staff in the schools in the performing arts and arts management departments have added their talents and layers to shape the production.

Drury's music technology, television production and performing arts management teacher Jamie Choquette guided his students through setting up lighting and sound design for the show, which includes shadowing and use of stage fog, and programming Mozart's music to play during transitions.

"Julia [Cellana] has been working so hard at the soundboards, showing up every day of rehearsal because the music is really another character in the show," Caton said.

"It's very serious and challenging," Cellana said of her role.

Her fellow junior, Joe Green, runs microphone sound for the show and said, "It's extremely complicated, and a lot of work goes into it behind the scenes."

On stage, senior Nick Burchard works just as hard, having to deliver some 30-plus monologues in his role as the villainous rival, Salieri.

"It's the most memorization I have ever done in my life," he said.

Caton noted how Burchard also challenged himself to take on an Italian accent, in addition to the Italian dialogue in the play. He also created the promotional poster.

Keith Davis' creative set construction classes, with art teacher Phoebe Pepper's guidance, create Mozart's study — complete with a harpsichord fitted with a modern keyboard — and Vienna's courts and stages. Broadway costumer Debbie Parker has also outfitted most of the cast in period clothing.

Beyond "Amadeus" itself, the production, as well as the upcoming May 19 full production of The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," demonstrates how Drury has dramatically grown into a comprehensive performing arts school.

"I think people are really surprised with what we've been doing," said junior Alex Bernard.

"We've had great support from the administration here," Caton said. "And with the Berkshires being so centered around the arts, I expect the community to embrace a performance piece like this."


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