By Stephanie James
Centennial Secondary School in Belleville will take you up, up, and away with their production of Peter Pan.
Rewritten into a musical in 1985 by Piers Chater Robinson, the play has a cast of 35 actors played by the students of the theatre production class at Centennial. The cast also includes four students from neighbouring public schools to play the roles of the younger characters in the play.
The young actors and actresses are full of energy and excitement as they fine tune their characters’ roles with only a few more days until opening night on Jan. 20.
“I like making people laugh with the characters I play,” said Caleb Gazley, 19, cast as the role of Captain Hook and Mr. Darling.
“I like finally having a role that I can express my acting ability” said Challian Christ, 16, playing his first leading role as Peter Pan.
Throughout the weeks of preparation, students, faculty, volunteers and even parents of former students are hard at work with acting practices, fundraising, and promoting the play.
For some of the dance numbers, members of the Quinte Ballet School of Canada, located next door to Centennial, have joined with the cast to help choreograph three of the dances in the play and also perform one of them.
The play has a live, eight-piece band that plays all musical numbers and background sounds. It is made up staff, students and volunteers of the school. Organizers have also hired a lighting and sound production crew to work with school on the event.
Offered as a two-credit course, students taking the class earn a drama and art credit for their high school education. To be able to take the class, students must first audition in May before school starts. This past May, 49 students auditioned with only 27 spots to fill.
“I want to do musical theatre later on in life after high school” said Maija Thompson, 15, who is acting the role of Wendy in the play.
“I want the students to know what it is like to be in a production that doesn’t feel like amateur night,” said Lise Lindenberg, the teacher for the theatre production class and the director of Peter Pan.
Taking almost four months to rehearse, students started off the year by studying different versions of the play they are going to perform. Auditions are done and characters are cast so students can begin working on their semester-long project that will turn into a finished musical they perform for parents and members of the public.
“Dedication is critical,” said Lindenberg.
Sets for the production are all made within the school. Designs for sets take about two months to draw up and are then handed over to the schools construction and tech classes to be built. Students and volunteers then paint and put them together.
Costumes for the play are both handmade by students or supplied by the Belleville Theatre Guild, who in the past have also put on a production of Peter Pan for the public.
Before opening night, the play is presented to public school students for two days during the morning and final preparations and rehearsals are done after school leading up to opening night.
“It has been a riot and a lot of fun to put this production together,” said Lindenberg.
Peter Pan will be open to the public on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m, two showings at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Jan. 21, and Jan. 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Centennial Secondary School on Palmer Road as well as the Red Ball Radio Station located on North Front Street, in Belleville. Tickets are $10 for seniors and students and $15 for adults.