Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Three BHS departments join forces for winter production

(Originally published in the 12/2/15 edition)

   Three prominent performing arts programs at Benicia High School—the dance program, the drama program and the band program— will join forces for Panther Productions’ “Alex in Wonderland: Through the Performing Arts Looking Glass” next weekend.
   The story takes inspiration from “Alice in Wonderland” and blends it with a frequent nightmare that performing artists have: being in a production you don’t remember being in. 
   The premise centers around Alex, played by junior Hamish Dinsdale, who finds himself in a production he has no knowledge of. As he tries to figure out whether he’s in a musical theater performance, dance show or band concert, he comes across several Wonderland-inspired characters, including the Queen of Hearts as a stage manager who tries to make things harder for Alex, and the White Rabbit who tries to help him out. 
   “There’s a very common nightmare of finding yourself in a show that you don’t know anything about,” drama teacher Christine Mani said. “You don’t know the music for it or the words for it or the costuming or blocking. It really is a common situation that happens in dreams, and performers deal with it a lot, but non-performers have it as well.”
   According to Mani, the production came together as an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of all three of Benicia High’s performing arts departments. 
   “A lot of people will go to a band show because they have band students they know, and they’ll go to a dance show because they have dance students they know,” she said. “The nice thing about this is it’s going to cross those boundaries a little bit. It’s going to show people what the different shows they wouldn’t see would be all about.”
   The traditional dance show, featuring Benicia High dancers doing choreographed performances to recordings of popular songs and held together by a storyline, has been a BHS hallmark for a long time. Many of the elements will still be in place, but the addition of band director Patrick Martin and dance instructor Marisol Almaguer will bring in new creative components.
   “This is my first year not being in charge of the dance program,” Mani said. “It’s been interesting having three instructors involved rather than just myself. I like the fact that it’s showcasing all the different talents of our performing artists here from acting to singing to dancing to instrument playing.”
   Rather than the musical sequences just having dancers, there will also be orchestrated pieces from the band program and  song and dance numbers from the musical theater class. 
   “It’s kind of an all-encompassing view of what we do here at Benicia High School and what we’re really known for,” she said.
   The musical theater class will be singing songs from popular musicals like “A Chorus Line,” “Reefer Madness” and “Annie” as well as a number from next spring’s production, “Seussical.” The dance program will be performing to world music pieces as well as more popular songs like the rock piano ballad “My Immortal” by Evanescence. The band will be performing several self-composed instrumental pieces, and the show will conclude with the entire cast performing Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ funk-throwback smash hit “Uptown Funk.”
   Mani hopes the production will bring a lot of entertainment to the audience.
   “Audiences can expect to laugh, feel emotionally drawn, have a visual spectacle and find some overall enjoyment in the storyline and talent in all these great youths,” she said. 
   With the combined efforts of all three programs, Mani also hopes the show will draw a much bigger crowd than usual.
   “Because it’s only two days, we’re really hoping to sell out,” she said. “We’re hoping to get people out there from all different walks of life to see what we can do as a whole department.”
   “Alex in Wonderland” will open at 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 11 and 12, at Benicia High’s Performing Arts Building, located on 1101 Military West. Tickets are $8 for children and high school and college students with identification and $14 for general admission. People who purchase tickets through will receive a $2 discount. For more information, contact BHS Performing Arts at (707)-751-2338. 


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