A little less than a month ago, Bradley Central High School celebrated the opening of its new Fine Arts Center, a state-of-the art facility that bookends the school’s south side and houses a 600-seat proscenium-style theater.
On that day, Bradley County Board of Education chairman Charlie Rose said, “As a former educator, what excites me about this building is the life that the students breathe into the brick and mortar.” Soon, Rose will get his wish as Bradley Central High School’s drama club — DramaCentral — breathes life into its first production in the new theater. In collaboration with the BCHS media arts, fine arts and BCHS music programs, DramaCentral will present the classic and award-winning musical “West Side Story” on Nov. 3 and 5 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. in the school’s new Fine Arts Center.
“West Side Story” is a classic American musical conceived by Jerome Robbins, with a script by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by April Bentley of Studio 125 and BCHS senior Kourtney Tager. It is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and explores timeless themes such as prejudice and hatred as well as love and sacrifice. Similar to that iconic play, “West Side Story” tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers from opposing gangs who fall in love, despite all odds and obstacles, and who also suffer a similarly tragic outcome. BCHS Theater Arts teacher and “West Side Story” director Lindsey Smith said “‘West Side’ contains the exact same misunderstandings and prejudices that exist in high school today and can also have horrifying endings.” Smith continued, “I knew it was an advantageous piece to choose, with tons of choreography and incredibly difficult songs, but I honestly believe there is nothing these kids cannot do. Besides, if you build a space like this for artists, we feel inspired.”
This is Smith’s fifth year as theater arts teacher at BCHS, having returned to Tennessee after a professional directing career that included credits in, most notably, Chicago.
Bradley Central High School’s production of “West Side Story” is a collaboration between several varied departments at the school. BCHS fine arts center technical director and media arts teacher Gwen Shroyer (music director), visual art teacher Matt Mosier (set decoration), and career and technical carpentry/cabinetmaking teacher Paul Shull (set design) have combined their collective talents to each lead their students in creating the various elements necessary to produce a show of this magnitude. In addition, the technical implementation of lights, sound, scenery, and recording in “West Side Story” will all be accomplished and led by Bradley Central students.
As music director Shroyer said, “West Side Story” is a showcase of the talent at BCHS on many levels, from the actors who sing and dance to the backstage personnel who support everything that the audience can see and hear. There are so many layers of art to take in and the best parts are the students who are giving their best in so many ways.”
“West Side Story” tickets are on sale now by calling 423-476-0650 and are $12 for adults and $6 for children and seniors. BCHS’s production of “West Side Story” is directed by Lindsey Smith and features BCHS senior Cody Glover (Tony) and junior Sha Toll (Maria) in the lead roles, and seniors Kourtney Tager (Anita) and Austin Rhoades (Bernardo).