Dr. Fry offers audition insights

Dr.+Fry+offers+audition+insights

John McClatchy

Dr. Fry took a break from a busy audition schedule to talk West Side Story and what it takes to be a lead performer

Every year, Malvern Prep, with cooperation from Villa Maria and Notre Dame, puts on three plays: a fall drama and a spring musical for the upper school, and a musical for the lower school. During the past week, there have been auditions and callbacks for the upper school spring musical, West Side Story. At the head of all productions at Malvern is Dr. James Fry, Director of Student Life and the Malvern Theatre Society.

Dr. Fry has been involved in some aspect of theater production for 16 years.  This is his 12th year at Malvern Prep, and his third year as Director of the Malvern Theater Society.  When asked what drew him to Malvern, Dr. Fry said, “… what drew me here was how friendly everyone was, the feeling of community, [and] the high value the school has placed in education, both in the classroom and in a social component.”

Dr. Fry selected West Side Story for the Spring 2014 music.  “[The play features] a large ensemble cast, plenty of parts, and it’s got great music,” he notes. “It’s a story everyone can understand, and it is timeless, both in the relationships and the conflicts.”

For those of you who don’t know anything about West Side Story, Dr. Fry provided a teaser for the plot. “It parallels Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. There are two gangs, the Sharks, [who are] Puerto Ricans, and the Jets, [who are] American high school students. It takes place in the 1950’s, and there is a huge rivalry between the Puerto Ricans and the Americans.”

Selecting the musical is not an easy decision, said Dr. Fry.  “Those conversations started after the spring play ended last year. I make the final decision, but everyone can suggest their ideas. Everyone shares their opinions, and we talk about the pros and cons. Conversations continue through the summer, and ideally, the season should be decided on by the end of the summer, though the royalty company can get in the way.”

What does it take to be selected for a lead role in a musical?  Dr. Fry said said he looks for, “someone who is hard working, someone who is able to sing the parts, and someone who is not afraid to jump in and face the challenges in producing Leonard Bernstein, [who is] a classic Broadway producer.”

“He/She also needs to embrace the character, and they need to have fun.”

For anyone interested in seeing the MTS production of West Side Story, the performance dates are the first two weekends in March.  The cast will be announced prior to Malvern’s winter break.