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Spring musicals at Coquitlam high schools

While most students are now thinking about their summer, dozens of young Coquitlam thespians are gearing up for their school's biggest show of the year. Three secondaries - Dr.

While most students are now thinking about their summer, dozens of young Coquitlam thespians are gearing up for their school's biggest show of the year.

Three secondaries - Dr. Charles Best, Gleneagle and Pinetree - are producing spring musicals at the same time next month, which drama and music teachers believe will be a boon for ticket sales.

"Audiences will want to see all three," said Ashley Freeborn, who is directing Gleneagle's Wizard of Oz.

"It just happened this way. Those were the dates we picked and so did the others," added Brad Case, who is leading Best Players' Guys and Dolls.

Natalee Fera of Pinetree secondary, whose Treehouse Theatre is presenting Oliver!, said competition is healthy. "It's an exciting time for high school theatre," she said.

Though some schools boast a live orchestra and professional help, others have focused on costumes and fundraising to make their shows a success.

Still, there's one thing they have in common: the musicals will be the final farewell for those graduating students who have performed in high school productions from the start.


For Dr. Charles Best's spring production of Guys and Dolls, music teacher Brent Hughes looked no further than Melissa Assalone.

A dancer instructor with Coquitlam's Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts, Assalone is known for her big roles, namely with the Royal City Musical Theatre and Theatre Under The Stars, for which she earned the E.V. Young Award for her performance in Grease.

Hughes knew Assalone through Christmas Pops, and brought her to Best to work on "the female dance numbers" for Guys and Dolls "and I was really happy to help out," she said. "They are experienced for their age and very talented."

Director Brad Case had 60 students show up for the open casting call last December and, from there, 12 boys and 14 girls were chosen for the Best Players' ensemble musical, widely known for its 1955 movie starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra and for its song Luck Be A Lady.

Written by Frank Loesser, the show is set in the hustle-bustle of New York City in the 1940s and '50s, filled with gamblers, crooks, cops, drunks and dancers.

Case said student carpenters in Stagecraft 11/12 re-worked the school gym last weekend to transform the stage, with flashy Manhattan signs and other props.


When it comes to raising cash to put on shows, Ashley Freeborn runs her department like a business.

Since September, when Gleneagle Musical Theatre department started rehearsing for The Wizard of Oz, students in the Musical Theatre 11/12 class have collected about $5,000 through corporate sponsorships, a Halloween event, talent show, flower bulb sales and tickets to their other shows.

The Oz hasn't been cheap to produce. The purchase of a live orchestral recording from Los Angeles was $1,000, "but it's so worth it," Freeborn said. "The music is really wonderful."

And so are the talented Grade 12 students selected to steer the narrative: Jacquie Bolster (Theatrix, Broadway Bound) takes the role of Dorothy; Jeff Huggins (lead singer of The Knots) is the Tin Man; Steven Black (Theatrix) portrays the Lion; while Spencer Britten (Caulfield School of Dance) is the Scarecrow not to mention the co-choreographer with his sister, Lyndsey, a Grade 10 student at Gleneagle.

For Bolster, being cast in the part of Dorothy is a dream come true. "I wanted to end this year with a bang," she said, adding, "I've never gotten the chance to play the ingénue."


Drama and dance specialist Natalee Fera went back her last school, Summit middle, to pick nine pupils for her Pinetree production of Oliver!, the Charles Dickens' classic about the British Industrial Revolution.

And out of that call, nine students were chosen with Tyler Simmons - a 12-year-old Grade 7 student - winning the role of Oliver Twist to lead the high school musical.

"There's a lot of talented kids there," said Fera of Summit, where she taught for six years.

Since January, the 26 students in the Treehouse Theatre musical have been rehearsing three times a week after school.

Musical director Marcia Carmichael is leading the band along Pinetree graduate Rouvin Seah (think of the play's songs: Food, Glorious Food, I'd Do Anything, Where is Love?, Consider Yourself, and As Long As He Needs Me).

Fera even recruited her boyfriend, Devin Karringten, to do the publicity photos and posters (see them at

As for the ragamuffin costumes, Fera picked them up at Costumes on a Shoestring in Kerrisdale.

Nadia Bordingnon, a Grade 12 student who portrays Nancy, said Oliver! is the best way to end her high school days. "I've been acting since I was in Grade 5 so this has been a long time coming."