ALIQUIPPA—The recent production of “Dreamgirls” by the Aliquippa High School music and drama department, was a smash sensation and featured a cast of high school students who earned standing ovations during their production, held at the newly-constructed high school and auditorium.
A 15-member cast featured the likes of Keyonia McClendon, Tyshawnna Kimbrough, Blair Cobb and Katie Pettis as the dream girls.
All four Dreamgirls are underclassmen and very active in the Beaver County arts and church community. Special commendations are also extended to the show’s director, Johnathan Burnett; Renee Ludwig, assistant director; and William “Will” Guess, orchestra conductor and a Slippery Rock University graduate.
|DREAMGIRLS— Keyonia McClendon, Tyshawnna Kimbrough, Blair Cobb and Katie Pettis.
While “The Quips” have always maintained a strong athletic reputation, the school’s thespian and music connections are a continuation of a tradition which reaches back to internationally-renowned composer Henry Mancini, an Aliquippa native and high school alumnus.
For Guess, the production posed a welcome challenge for the 23-year-old Penn Hills High School graduate.
“Of course, it was a challenge because we primarily had to work with a cast of underclassmen. But through hard work and perseverance, we were able to pull it off with much success,” said Guess, who is just completing his first year at Aliquippa High, after being appointed the school’s band director last summer.
In recent years, the school has presented such productions as “The Wiz,” “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “Pippin,” “Godspell,” “Oliver” and “The Music Man.”
Guess said Dreamgirls rehearsals started in late January-early February and included after-school sessions four days a week.
“It demanded lots of hard work on the students’ part, but in the end it was worth it. We’ve got a very talented core group of students who have all the talent in the world. We’re very proud of them,” he said.
He added that parental and community support was astounding and has started a revised renaissance of sorts in the Aliquippa music and arts arena.
Guess also reflected on the late A.D. Davenport, a protégé of John Philip Sousa who organized one of America’s first high school band programs at Aliquippa High. Davenport, also composed the “Salute to Pa. Music Educator’s Association” theme song.
As he completes his inaugural year as the school’s band director, Guess said he is proud of his role as “Dreamgirls” orchestra conductor.
“The key was editing the music to fit a high school production verses the lengthy original movie score,” he said.
“I plan on rebuilding this program to become what it has been in the past. It’s the challenge of continuing to impact our students and the entire community. It’s been a great first year for me at Aliquippa High School and I look forward to many more to come,” said the enthusiastic young teacher.