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posted: 5/14/2010 12:01 AM

Retiring West Chicago teacher goes out big with 'West Side Story'

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  • Jeff Pierpoint sings a number with the other Jets in rehearsal of "West Side Story" at West Chicago's Community High School.

    Jeff Pierpoint sings a number with the other Jets in rehearsal of "West Side Story" at West Chicago's Community High School.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer


Mary Hafertepe has worked on a fair share of musicals during her 37-year teaching career.

But it wasn't until now that she's preparing for retirement that Hafertepe is bringing the musical classic "West Side Story" to the stage at West Chicago's Community High School. The production opens tonight and runs through Saturday, May 15.

"I maybe shied away from it ('West Side Story') in the past, partially because of the choreography and the instrumental music is very, very difficult," said Hafertepe, who is codirecting the show with Maggie Haas.

Hafertepe said she now believes she has the right group of students for the musical, which is a variation on the story of "Romeo and Juliet."

"It's still a huge challenge," Hafertepe said. "But this is the right school to do it in. We have been able to involve a whole new crop of kids, and that's great."

Haas said Community High traditionally ends the school year with a large production. With the musical exploring the rivalry between two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds in 1950s New York City, "West Side Story" has many roles for students.

"And especially because it's our director's last show," Haas said, "she really likes having a large cast and getting as many kids involved as possible."

However, with more than 100 students involved - including cast, crew and band members - bringing "West Side Story" to life on a high school stage is very complex.

"I think the students have really risen to the challenge," Hafertepe said. "In fact, I am feeling more calm now than I do about many musicals at this point in the production schedule."

One decision was to have the West Chicago production stay true to the original 1957 Broadway show. So audience members most familiar with the 1961 film will be in for some surprises.

"The movie took a lot of liberties with the script in terms of doing different things to some of the songs and changing the order of some of the songs," Haas said. "We've definitely been sticking to the original script."

Meanwhile, all the components that make "West Side Story" a frequently produced show remain, including the classic songs "Maria," "Tonight," and "Somewhere." The story also still connects with modern-day audiences.

"Everybody likes a good love story every now and then," Haas said.

'West Side Story' cast


Riff: Jeff Pierpoint

Tony: Nik Kmiecik

Action: Tony Wondolkowski

A-Rab: Noah Strayve

Baby John: Dan Stompor

Snowboy: T.J. Hahs

Big Deal: Steve Balmer

Diesel: Will Richards

Gee-Tar: Aaron Morden

Mouthpiece: Kevin Hauber

Tiger: Braeden Austgen

Jet girls

Graziela: Emma Roberts

Velma: Kelsey Skogsberg

Minnie: Nikki Smith

Clarice: Ellen Fitzgerald

Pauline: Meghan Ziffra

Linda: Chelsea Ross

Brenda: Sami Lauf

Shirley: Carrie Liska

Donna: Lauren Russo

Anybodys: Pilar Bonilla


Bernardo: Anthony Soliven

Chino: Louis Boers

Pepe: Emmanuel Ortiz

Indio: Edgar Lomeli

Luis: Abraham Garcia

Anxious: Fidel Huerta

Nibbles: Erik Espino

Juano: Luis Ramirez

Toro: Joe Ramos

Moose: James Alfaro

Shark girls

Maria: Anna Duran

Anita: Jackie Salgado

Rosalia: Nadia Pelletier

Consuela: Danielle Pacelli

Teresita: Isaamar Zarco

Francisca: Annette Sanchez

Estella: Tori Snell

Margarita: Suzanne Molinaro

Paloma: Lily Villa

Emilia: Ariel Berumen

Estefanía: Maria Barajas


Doc: Tom Sanders

Schrank: Josh Brown

Krupke: Tyler Austgen

Glad Hand: Ryan Lakics