LAKE GEORGE - Two teen-agers watched legendary local drama director Mickey Luce coach several of their classmates March 26 as they practiced parts for the upcoming Lake George High School musical.
The production, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, will be presented to the public in two shows, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, April 3 and 4, in the high school auditorium.
The two seniors, Derrick Bengsz and Will Matthews, are known for performing their own original songs in the alternative rock band Approaching Human, but singing and acting in a musical is an entirely new experience for them, Matthews said.
But these two students now have lead roles in this award-winning musical that's enjoyed several revivals on Broadway since it was first staged in 1962.
"Participating in this production has been a whole eye-opener - experiencing the drama environment," Matthews said. "It's like I found a new part of myself."
Bengsz is lead singer for Approaching Human, while Matthews contributes backup singing and drums. Bengsz also said he enjoyed expanding his performing horizons beyond his alt-rock band with Matthews.
In the musical, Matthews plays Pseudolus, and Bengsz is Hero, two of the lead roles.
"We already have great chemistry coming into this, so it's easy to play off each other," Bengsz said.
The musical's story, inspired by farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus, was written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It focuses on a slave named Pseudolus, who attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master win the heart of a neighbor girl.
Both the original Broadway production and several revivals won Tony Awards.
Music director for Lake George's production of Forum is Catherine Reed. Filling the role as director is Luce, who's been directing productions at Lake George High or his regional Youtheatre troupe for three decades or so.
As Luce was scampering across the stage at the recent rehearsal, acting out parts and demonstrating characters' body language, Matthews and Bengsz talked about what it was like to learn the craft from Luce, the legend.
"Working with him makes you want to make it the best it can be," Matthews said, watching Luce prompt a student actress to boost the intensity of emotion in her lines.
"Knowing he's such a great director, you want to impress him," he said.
The cast's common objective to make the musical memorable, Matthews said, is now bringing them together.
"Everyone is working for each other," he said. "It brings you together like a family."
Tickets to the production, $10 will be available at the door 15 minutes prior to curtain time.