At Cherry Hill High School East, theater is no longer just an activity.
Instead, it morphs into a lifestyle, said actors from the upcoming production of “Peter Pan.”
“Everyone’s so willing to take risks,” said Alexandra Maresh, a junior who plays Wendy.
According to Maresh, who has been involved in every theater production during her time so far at East, when a cast member has an idea in rehearsal, everyone else is supportive.
“It is such a whirlwind working with this cast,” said Sarah Sosland, a junior cast as Peter Pan.
“I’m so overwhelmingly lucky. This is such a great opportunity,” Sosland added.
A theater junkie since her childhood, Sosland is ready to take on the role of Peter Pan, changing her inflection and standing a different way to “boy it up a little bit.”
Since Maresh has a deeper voice, she plans to make her voice higher for Wendy and use a British accent.
The actors make director Tom Weaver’s job easy.
“How could it not be fun to work with people this passionate?” said Weaver.
Theater kids are generally jacks-of-all-trades, he said, and have a high level of intelligence and common sense.
Most high schools, he said, do not double cast due to a natural conflict.
“Not here,” he added.
East has been double casting parts since the 1970s without fail.
“It doesn’t work unless the kids allow for it to work,” he said.
Maresh and Sosland are both “well-accomplished actresses,” he said. “I don’t have to do much.”
As Sosland is a female Peter Pan, there are some cuts she may have to make to her hair.
Her hair will then be wrapped horizontally to avoid a bun on the top of her head. A wig will be placed over that.
“I have confidence in these kids,” said Weaver, unworried by the major production looming on the horizon.
Student actors put in 20 to 25 hours per week in rehearsal time as the musical nears, while still juggling their academics and any other activities.
“It takes a special kind of person to be in a program this big with the tradition we have here,” said Weaver.
Certainly, he added and the girls adamantly agreed, it is absolutely nothing like a junior high school production.
“They’re shell shocked when they get here,” he laughed.
Confidence and time management are skills that each East theater member attains from the program.
“They’re in it to become productive human beings,” said Weaver.
“Peter Pan” will have its share of ways to woo the audience, from fly cues to a trail of fairy dust from the parking lot to the auditorium and a sword fight.
Some directors try to give “Peter Pan” a dark feel, he said.
“I’m not going down that road at all,” he added. “I want to make it as animated as possible.”
There will be real blades in the sword fight between Hook and Peter Pan, he said, and his daughter, Erin Weaver, who is certified in stage combat, will be helping with appropriate training.
“It’s a little exhausting,” he said. “They have to be dead on.”
Administration support is what allows for such ventures in the program, he said, from superintendent Dr. Maureen Reusche, all the way down the line.
“We’re doing something that most high schools wouldn’t dare to do,” he said. “I like the fact that we think out of the box here.”
The musical is expected to see high turnout each night.
“We’re trying to make the whole show fun and lighthearted so the 5-year-old kid will like it as much as the adult,” said Weaver.
“Peter Pan,” the musical by James M. Barrie, will open in the Cherry Hill East auditorium on March 1 at 7:30 p.m.
On March 2, 3, 9 and 10, there will be 2 p.m. matinee performances.
Another night performance will be held on March 8 at 7:30 p.m.
All tickets, reserved, are priced at $12.
Picnic with Peter, a special, limited seating gathering for children, will take place at noon on March 2.
Tickets are $20 and include a pizza lunch, autographs from characters and seating for the 2 p.m. show on that day.
Learn more at www.chetheatre.com.