By Raiza Giorgi
Cassidy Sweetland is putting all her time and energy into rehearsing for her role as Anita in an upcoming performance of “West Side Story” on May 4 and 5 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.
The Solvang native said she was thrilled to be chosen as one of the actresses to perform as Anita — four girls will play the part in each of the four performances. Cassidy will be Anita for the evening performance on Saturday, May 4.
“I started taking dancing lessons again at Los Olivos Dance Gallery to brush up on my skills and I sing every day,” said Cassidy, 13.
Cassidy is one of two valley performers who will take the stage with the Adderley School Conservatory of Santa Barbara. The role of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks gang, will be played by Michael Moreno of Buellton for the matinee performances.
The Adderley School, founded in 1993 by Broadway and television veteran Janet Adderley, is a nonprofit musical theater enrichment program for children ages 4 to 18, with studios in Santa Barbara, Pacific Palisades and in Austin, Texas.
There will be 28 Adderley Conservatory students performing in the four shows at the Lobero, taking turns in lead roles and in ensemble numbers.
“The children truly support one another and bring each other along,” said Alana Adderley, choreographer and musical director. “Their efforts represent the essence of ensemble theater. When one performer is struggling – be it with dance steps or conquering a high note – the others will help him or her get there. They are reliant on one another and learn to be fearless on stage and reach new heights with their talents.”
The choice of “West Side Story” as the local youth ensemble’s 13th annual musical coincides with a Broadway revival now in production in New York, and a new Hollywood film version to be released later this year.
“You might say there is a ‘West Side Story’ fever catching on, and I’m not surprised,” said Janet Adderley, the conservatory’s founder and director. “The show was groundbreaking when it opened 62 years ago and is considered a masterpiece of musical theater. When we assembled our cast, I knew they would captivate local audiences performing it.”
The Adderley School produces a full-scale musical every spring, with a live orchestra, a rarity in youth theater. Last May, the ensemble presented “Les Misérables” to sold-out audiences. Cassidy performed in that show, too.
The lead role of Maria will be shared by four girls. Eve Philips of Montecito and Maile Merrick of Summerland will take the stage in the matinee performances. In the evening performances, Maria will be played by Isabella Ochoa of Montecito and Lucky Drucker of Santa Barbara. Montecito resident Sam Pillow will play the role of Tony in the matinee performances, and Gus Anderson, from Austin, Texas, will perform that role in the evenings.
The leader of the Jets gang, Riff, will be played by Hiro Phillips of Montecito (matinees) and Maddox Henry of Santa Barbara (evenings). The role of Anita, made famous by Academy Award-winning film actress Rita Moreno, will be performed by Magdalena Amezaga of Santa Barbara and Anna Michelle Duboc of Los Angeles (matinees), with Cassidy and Sofia Schuster of Santa Barbara (evenings).
Tickets for “West Side Story” are available at the Lobero Theatre box office and on Lobero.org. For more information, log onto www.theadderleyschool.org.