‘Amadeus’ an ambitious production for Concord High School
Cast members from Amadeus rehearse.
Eli Frydman (as Antonio Salieri) and Laura Braley (as Constanze Mozart) rehearse a scene from Amadeus.
Laura Braley (as Constanze Mozart) and Peter Newland (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) rehearse a scene from Amadeus.
The logo for Amadeus
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Betrayal, some mild sexy talk, a murder and a sliced throat. It’s not typical high school fare, yet it’s exactly what the gang from the Concord High School Drama Club will be tackling this weekend.
The group has been working on a production of Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus. The show follows the confessions of Mozart’s famous frenemy, Antonio Salieri, as he tells the story of both Wolfganag Amadeus Mozart’s rise to fame and Salieri’s own bitter jealousy.
This is a tough show, one that in film form garnered scads of Academy Awards and not one often found in auditoriums of local high schools.
“We’ve always been fortunate here at Concord High School because we’ve always tried to do things that challenge both the performance and the audience,” said Clint Klose, the show’s director.
“When I pick the shows for the year, I try not to pick shows that everyone else is doing or has done. You don’t see Amadeus being done by high schools or colleges even. But it shows the level that these kids are on and how much they thirst for trying new things and trying things no one’s done before.”
While not typical for high school, it seems to be typical for Klose, for whom this is his fourth show at the high school. Amadeus is following such Klose-picked productions as Little Shop of Horrors, Rent and The Phantom of the Opera, and precedes their interpretation of Jekyll and Hyde in the spring.
“We have an unbelievable group of talented students and an unbelievable group of parents who really make this whole program shine,” Klose said. “So people are up to the challenge. They are up to the task.”
And it’s a show full of challenges for even seasoned adult actors – let alone students who range in age from 13-18 – not the least of which is the language itself.
“Trying to emulate 19th-century dialogue with a modern-day audience can kind of be a trick, but the way that (Shaffer) writes is very exquisite, and very creative the way that he approaches it,” he said.
One trick the playwright uses is having Salieri encourage his audience to really listen to the story. He envelopes the audience in the show by recognizing that they are there.
Taking that theme a bit further, and as a way to get all 26 cast members (most of whom don’t speak on stage) involved in the action, Klose has given them a special task.
“I have the ensemble members who don’t speak in the show, actually in the audience for the first half hour before the show as their characters,” Klose said. “And they had to come up with their own family stories and family history. So they had to come from that specific time period. So not only did they have to come with their names, but they had to decide what accent they’d have and what country they’re from. It was my way of trying to envelope the audience back to the 1800s.”
Another challenge with the show is some adult subject matter. In the original, Salieri slits his own throat, Amadeus is allegedly murdered and the playwright wasn’t shy when he wrote the notoriously frisky Mozart’s dialogue.
But Klose has accommodated those things as well.
“We do a blackout when it comes to that point (throat slitting) in the story, so it implies the perils and struggles he went through.
“We’ve also cleaned up some of the dialogue of the show,” he said. “Our version is very much a PG-13 version of it.”
That said, the kids are still dealing with some heavy subject matter. Klose said that since the kids may not have the extensive life experience an older actor may have, he tries to give a description of what he’s looking for.
“It really doesn’t take much effort on my part,” he said. “I just give them suggestions and ideas.”
And, he added, they did a lot of their own research in addition to watching the film together where Klose was able to stop and explain the humor or context of the piece.
“But these are very bright individuals and very talented actors; they pick up on things very quickly,” he said.
For example, Eli Frydman, who plays Salieri, is responsible for the 70 of 95 pages of dialogue in the show.
“He’s had his lines memorized for the past month,” Klose said. “He’s just amazing. He’s just a sponge, and he’s taking it all in and just doing an amazing job portraying this role. . . . And he’s a sophomore here at the high school.”
The show goes up today and runs through Saturday. All shows start at 7 p.m. and will be held in the CHS Christa McAiliffe Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors.
Tickets are reserved seating and may be purchased at the door or reserved by calling 717-7670.