Love old musicals? ‘Crazy For You’ brings them back |
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Leechburg High School junior Joel Knepshield, who plays Bobby Child, and junior Anne Sorisio, who plays Polly Baker, rehearse a scene for their fall musical, 'Crazy for You' at the high school on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014.

Leechburg Junior/Senior High School’s fall musical, “Crazy For You,” is a high-energy romantic-comedy classic featuring memorable music by famed American composer George Gershwin. With more than 44 cast members, this small high school packs in big theatrical drama.

This year, musical director Emily King departed from the school’s usual spring performance.

“We always have such scheduling issues in the spring, and last year with the terrible winter, the cast lost over two weeks in rehearsal time,” King says. “We are trying out a fall schedule this year and seeing how it goes.”

“Crazy For You” burst onto the Broadway musical stage in 1992 and won the Tony Award for best musical that year.

“I was looking for a show this year that featured a lot of girls. This production has two female leads and 10 Follies girls (dancers),” King says. “The show is filled with tons of dancing and tap dancing, and the tap dancing is a new skill to master for our cast. Students are also having to hone British accents and Western accents, as well.”

The dusty Arizona town of Deadrock is the setting for the characters who convene with a series of plot twists, intermixed with great songs and tap numbers such as “Someone To Watch Over Me” and “I Got Rhythm.”

“Crazy For You” was produced and billed in 1992 as a new musical loosely based on the 1930 musical “Girl Crazy,” says Leechburg Area band director Rob Reams.

“The audience will surely recognize many of the Gershwin tunes used throughout the production. Two of the most recognizable melodies are ‘Embraceable You’ and ‘I Got Rhythm,’” Reams says.

“This musical is a kickback to the old classics,” King says. “Everyone will love it.”

Junior Anne Sorisio plays Polly Baker, the only woman in the hardscrabble town of Deadrock.

“I am the only girl in town with a bunch of cowboys,” Sorisio says. “Polly runs the post office, and she falls in love with a man named Zangler.”

Sorisio has been performing since fifth grade and considers musical theater “a part of my life.”

“I get excited and nervous, in a good way, with performing, and Mrs. King knows what each student is capable of performing,” Sorisio says. “We are a small school, but we do it all.”

Joel Knepshield fills the lead character of Bobby Child, a rich banker with a passion for the theater and complicated love life. He also must tackle the character of Zangler, an alter-ego creation of Bobby.

“I have to master a Hungarian accent with the Zangler role,” says Knepshield, a junior acting in his sixth year at Leechburg Area. “A lot of good stuff happens, but I don’t want to give the plot away.”

Knepshield auditioned for the role of Bobby specifically. “I have a tough time memorizing my lines — that is the difficult part — and during performances we are on our own. No one will feed us lines. This is my sixth year performing, and I know what is expected, and I want to make the best of it.”

Principal Matt Kruluts is looking forward to seeing his students perform.

“I feel this gives our students the opportunity to shine. They are so talented, and it is essential for us as educators to produce students that are well-rounded,” Kruluts says. “These kids spend more time with their musical family than their own during rehearsal months. This year’s cast is large, and don’t forget that many students work behind the scenes handling the lighting and stage.”

Brother-and-sister team Andrew and Eailey Pallus will perform together for the first time this fall.

“This is my first year in musical,” says Andrew, a seventh-grader. “I play Pete, a cowboy, and I have been learning my lines and realizing there is a lot to know. I am lucky to have my big sister here to help.”

Eailey, a stage veteran with six years’ experience, fills the role of Patsy, a Follies dancer.

“She is a ditsy showgirl, and such fun to play,” Eailey says. “I am having fun with this role. The best part is opening night and hearing the audience’s reaction. This year’s show is fun, challenging and comedic.”

Joyce Hanz is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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