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The setting is a government funded High School of the Performing Arts in New York. It covers three years from the first enrolment to graduation. It covers all aspects of today' schools, such as literacy, morality, drug abuse self-defence and respect. It shows the student who can't wait and leaves the school to go into show business and the result; the student who is a talented dancer but illiterate and cannot handle the academic side.

The class was a mixture of typical America, Puerto Rican, Afro Negro, Jewish, and your average WASP. They were all shapes and sizes and abilities ranging from rap dancer to classic ballet.

The teaching staff were represented by Peter Collingwood as the music teacher, Mr Sheinkopf, Margi De Ferranti as the dance teacher Miss Bell, Tony Sheldon as drama teacher Mr. Myers and Grammy Award winner from America Thelma Houston as Head Teacher Miss Sherman.

One of the outstanding scenes was the duet between Thelma and Margi where Margi as Miss Bell was fighting to retain Tyrone, a great dancing talent but academically illiterate and Thelma as Miss Sherman who wanted to fail Tyrone. The acting and singing of this couple was fantastic and the rapport between them was a great example of theatre.

Leon Maurice-Jones was Tyrone Jackson the talent but illiterate dancer. Leon showed his talent at rap dancing but was scorned by the rich girl Iris Kelly who was a classic ballet dancer and hand no time for Tyrone's dance style. Iris was played by Rebecca Yates who spent 10 years with The Australian Ballet and the last four years as a senior soloist. Tyrone and Iris started to appreciate each other's style. The standard of dancing was very high and they worked perfectly together and were well appreciated by the audience. Allison Byrne was Grace "Lambchops" Lamb the drummer girl and what a drummer. A contrast was Luke Hunter as Schlomo Metzenbaum also a musician playing with Allison. Schlomo was a classical player and was not happy with Grace's style. The third member of the musical trio was Adrian Wells as Goodman "Goody" King a talented saxophonist. The trio gave good performances both classical and Rock.

Another trio of talent were the dramatic class members, Peter Murphy as Nick Piazza, Ana Maria Belo as Serena Katz, and Miguel Ayesa as Joe "Jose" Vegas. Ana as Serena had a crush on Nick and was always trying to play Juliet opposite him. Nick was only interested in studying acting and was at first quite oblivious to Serena's attention. Joe Vargas played the Puerto Rican who couldn't get himself to play serious roles. The three added to the fun of the evening and to the standard of the production.

Other highlights were the dancers choreographed by Kelley Abbey who also played Carmen Diaz the dancer who could not wait to graduate and went on to Hollywood. Kelley gave a very successful performance, full of energy, vitality and wonderful projection. The dancers gave great energetic performances and having fairly cramped stage conditions used the area to great advantage.

A wonderful production which will run until middle of February and definitely worth making an effort to see.

Venue: State Theatre Victorian Arts Centre. Season: December 28 - Mid February. Bookings: Ticketmaster 136 166.

by Peter Kemp, Online Australian Correspondent


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