It took some cajoling on the part of the teachers overseeing Walnut Grove Secondary’s spring musical to get student Jos Portillo to take the lead.
The Grade 9 student had auditioned for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat hoping for a little part in the background in what would be his first time in a school show.
But Portillo, who grew up in Ontario before coming to Langley about three years ago, can belt out a tune.
“I love music and I love singing,” Portillo said.
The show is a spectacle of singing and dancing but has some darker elements, since it is based on the Bible.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber script has been adapted into a school version. The play is the tale of “Joseph and his 11 brothers who are not happy with his popularity,” explained Hayley Eigenfeldt.
The Grade 12 student along with Alex Tenada, also in Grade 12, and Mariya Osckam, in Grade 11, share the role of narrator.
The brothers envy Joseph’s colourful coat, a symbol of their father’s preference for him, and try to murder him. Joseph is also enslaved in Egypt, interpreting dreams of the pharaoh (watch for the 10-foot gold sphinx created for the show) and more family trouble.
The show features the Megamix, a version that wraps with a rock/disco finale of the major musical numbers.
For Portillo, the ultimate message of the show is not to give up even when life is difficult.
“All the obstacles you face are obstacles you must face,” he said. “Bad things can turn out to be good things.”
He’s come to discover that being in a school production isn’t as easy as some assume.
“It’s challenging,” he said.
Learning to hit the right note and hit the right mark are not the biggest lessons from being part of a big school production.
The son of immigrants from El Salvador has found in the performing arts a kind of theatrical family.
“It’s been a pleasant surprise for me,” he said of the camaraderie among those involved in the show.
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PHOTO: Alex Teneda, Mariya Osckam and Hayley Eigenfeldt share a key role, the narrator, who instead of being off stage, takes part in the show, singing and dancing alongside the large cast. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)
The show runs April 7 to 9 and 14 to 16. Performances are at 7 p.m. each day and there’s a 2 p.m. matinee April 16.
“We have 76 students in the [musical theatre] course this year ranging in grades from nine to 12,” explained teacher Chad Hendricks. “We also have a pit orchestra of 17 students in the same grade range.”
Hendricks teaches the course along with Mike Angell with support from Shane Fawkes overseeing the orchestra, and Janelle Castro doing choreography.
The shows take place in the school gym, 8919 Walnut Grove Dr. and tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets (search Theatre in the Grove) or contact TheatreInTheGrove@sd35.bc.ca.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors.
Portillo, prior to being cast as Joseph, had planned to pursue a career in the arts but said even for students not taking that path, the arts are an important element of their education.
“It’s part of you,” he said of creativity.
For him that means doing visual arts such as painting, drawing, and sculpting as well as singing and music. And now acting.
“A society without it is broken,” Portillo said of the arts.
PHOTO: Walnut Grove Secondary is staging Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in April. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)