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Upper Perk High School Travels Back to Wartime in the South Pacific
Written by Kelly Kalb, Correspondent

Upper Perkiomen High School students in the drama club will be presenting the musical "South Pacific" in the school's auditorium tonight at 7 p.m. Above, the American Seabees perform the song "There is Nothing Like a Dame."

        The stage was set at Upper Perkiomen High School (UPHS) for a rendition of the popular musical "South Pacific." The cast and crew were filled with excitement for their debut performance which took nearly five months of preparation.

        Anyone familiar with Broadway is certainly aware of the history behind "South Pacific." Set during World War II, the story follows a nurse from the U.S. Navy named Nellie who falls in love with Emile, a French plantation owner with a complicated past. Emile has two children, Ngana and Jerome, whom Nellie rejects at first but comes to love over time.
        Additional scenes depicted military officers in comedic and dramatic roles with natives of the island. The production was filled with song and dance choreographed by local dance studio owner Jennifer Dancy.
        The school’s drama department had nearly 50 students working on the arduous process filled with casting roles, memorizing lines, designing sets, lighting and other technical aspects as well as gathering costumes.
        Dancy explains, “I see so much talent and future talent. They have worked so hard to improve, and are so dedicated. They are great kids to work with and I love working with them.”
        Teachers at the high school have dedicated their time for the production to go off without a hitch. Alicia Cortese, English teacher, along with Colby Phillips, social studies teacher, have come together again to direct this year’s performance.
        Phillips described her feelings by stating, “I really enjoy working with the students outside of the traditional classroom environment. It has allowed me to grow as a teacher and connect with students. I am so proud of the hard work our cast has done and can’t wait to see it all come together on opening night.”
        “Directing and producing this year’s production of South Pacific has been a rewarding challenge. The show’s themes are sophisticated and emotionally charged, and the cast has diligently worked to try and reach the emotional depths necessary to convey the stories of the characters,” Cortese added.
        In addition to the production, a 25-minute documentary put together by the school’s TV studio aired prior to the show with focus being on veterans in the community. Cortese described this as, “a small tribute to the brave citizens who have proudly served our country.”
        There is no denying the dedication UPHS students have provided since casting began in November 2012. Many contributors to "South Pacific" have also taken part in past productions such as "Bye, Bye Birdie" and "Footloose."
        Student director, senior Kate Allebach, has future plans in music education and said, “Working on the production is definitely an asset to what you’re doing in the future.”
        Senior Nolan Benner, who was cast as the male lead Emile, reflected on his time spent in preparation for the production by stating, “I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to work with such an amazing cast. Each of their individual efforts made this possible. I think I speak for everyone in the cast when I thank Ms. Cortese, Ms. Phillips, Dr. Thomas, Mr. Sweeney, Ms. Nalepa, Ms. Dancy, and everyone else involved in the planning and forming of the production.”
        Benner’s brother Aaron, a freshman, joined him on stage portraying his son, Jerome. He explained, “It was scary to try something new and different, but it was really fun.” He also wished to thank Ms. Cortese and Ms. Phillips for their hard work.
        Students were cast into roles that best fit their own personalities, which is something senior Stephanie Sirak can attest to as she was matched to a relatable character, Bloody Mary. “I’m confident in my part because it’s more of a comedic role and more comfortable. I feel she is a part of me and the audience will enjoy it, she said.
        Sirak also shares an enjoyment of the arts and teaching as do many of her fellow castmates.
        Senior Kevin Weeks played Lt. Joe Cable. He has taken with him what he described as, “an overall better understanding of people.” Weeks also described the experience as, “Very exciting and bitter sweet because it will be my last performance here.”
        The cast and crew of "South Pacific" are hoping to have a packed house for the remainder of performances.
        A Gold Card matinee show was Wednesday, March 20 at 1 p.m., which was free to seniors.
Subsequent performances open to the public are scheduled for Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m. as well as March 22, 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. with a special matinee performance on Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m.
        Tickets can be purchased at the door for $8. Doors open 30 minutes before the performances.              





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