Centennial High's complicated love story

Students shine in roles for school's production of `Bell's are Ringing'


Howard Live

May 06, 2004|By David Calder | David Calder,ATHOLTON HIGH SCHOOL

Imagine you have just met a wonderful guy. You do dinner. He takes you dancing. Then, later that night, he calls you on the telephone and calls you "Mom." Terrifying, no? Well, such is the plight of Ella Peterson in Bells are Ringing, the hilarious musical performed April 22 at Centennial High School.

Bells recounts Ella's misadventures as an operator for the Susanswerphone answering service. Despite continual reprimands from her boss, Ella Peterson (the charismatic Kelly Fey) just can't stop involving herself in the lives of her clients. She even creates personas for each one, based on what he or she lacks in life. And for defeated playwright Jeffrey Moss (Mark Wendel), that persona is a nurturing mother figure he calls "Mom." But wouldn't you know it, Ella falls in love with the handsome devil, and things get complicated.

Fey shines as Ella Peterson. The role requires her to play the hopeless romantic and the chipper, upbeat friend, and she does both beautifully. Her rich voice is amazing, and her mature acting makes it even better. Equally entertaining are her fellow Susanswerphone operators Peggy (Rachel Grap), Gwynne (Julie Kuhn) and Margaret (Meredith Schreibfeder), who form an amusing and believable support group for Ella during her romantic ordeal.

Other memorable characters include Dr. Kitchell, the dentist and would-be composer played by Alborz Ghandehari, and Francis (Hannah Coakley), the perky assistant to Inspector Barnes (Andrew Adams). Eddie Lovern also wowed the crowd as Carl, the Latin dancer who brings out Ella's inner cha-cha.

Jule Styne's music was well-performed by a student-conducted pit orchestra, though the positioning of the musicians in front of the audience was distracting at times. The closeness of the orchestra made some of the lyrics hard to understand, with microphones offering little help.

Other technical aspects of the production ran more smoothly. Nick Aburn's costume design added much to the atmosphere of the play, especially in the scene in which Ella, dressed in a red gown, tries to fit in with a group of snobbish socialites, all clad in black and white. The stage crew deserves credit for executing the many set changes quickly and efficiently.

The Centennial students did an amazing job of conveying the play's simple message: It is important to accept one another for who we are. But perhaps more importantly, they gave the audience a rollicking good time.

David Calder reviewed "Bells are Ringing" for the Baltimore Cappies, a program in which students review high school productions under the direction of their teachers and vote on awards for outstanding performances.

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