OPERA AND DANCE TO LIGHT UP RBR STAGE

Rehearsing for this week’s Spring Dance Concerts at Red Bank Regional, VPA dance majors include (front row, left to right) Phoenicia Butler, Jessica Adderly, Dillion Jackson, plus (back row, left to right) Kendall Van Winkle, Bella Caputi and  Samantha Lore.  (Click to enlarge)

When the Visual and Performing Arts program at Red Bank Regional High School puts on a show, it’s like the Big Game.

Beginning Thursday night and carrying over into the middle of the coming week, the students of the VPA –majors in dance, music and visual arts from all over the Shore area — will take center stage in a series of showcase events, starting with a pair of Spring Dance Concert performances and continuing with the first fully staged opera production in the school’s history.

Katherine Robinson (Shrewsbury) looks on as Evangeline Athanasiou (Red Bank) confronts Patrick Martini (Union Beach) in DIDO AND AENEAS, one of two full one-act operas to be presented next week at Red Bank Regional. (Click to enlarge)

Some 42 dance majors — including six seniors performing together for the last time — take to the boards of the RBR Theatre this Thursday at 7 pm, and again on Saturday at 2 pm, for a recital that combines the work of special guest choreographers with the choreography of the student dancers themselves.

Offering up 30 numbers that range from jazz to hip hop and other contemporary styles, the Spring Dance Concert program features the input of  Say Dance Collective founder Gabrielle Barnett, as well as several VPA dance major alumni (Jamie Baptist, Gwen Baum, Jessica Berube, Kali Drake, Anthony Tiedeman) who’ve gone on to pursue dance and dance education careers.

Berube, who’s served as a student teacher during the 2011-2012 school year at RBR, contributed an original piece entitled Off I Go, which will be realized onstage by the six senior dancers — among them Red Bank’s Phoenicia Butler, who choreographed three of the segments  in the spring show (and who will be studying toward a career in dance education at the University of North Carolina).

Also performing in Off I Go will be three students from Little Silver — Kristin Balve, Dillon Jackson and Kendall Van Winkle — as well as Alexis Hines (Union Beach) and Colleen Strazdas (Neptune City).

RBR faculty member Kristopher Zook says he was looking for “something new” to stretch the abilities of his vocal students — and on the evenings of May 1 and 2, the RBR stage offers something unique to local audiences: a night at the opera.

Featured are a pair of works which, although they were written hundreds of years apart from each other, have a couple of things in common. Both are one-acts of roughly an hour in length, and both are in English.

Written in 1946, The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti (best known for Amahl and the Night Visitors) will be followed by Dido and Aeneas, a “tragic love story” (written in 1689 by Henry Purcell) that has the distinction of being the first opera composed in the English language. The operas will be presented at 7 pm on Tuesday, May 1, and again at 7 pm on Wednesday, May 2.

Zook, who will be directing both operas, called the production “an ambitious project for high school singers, and for some the first opera they have ever attempted, but our talented students are up to the task.”

Starring as Dido is Evangeline Athanasiou of Red Bank, who as winner of the New Jersey Governor School Opera honor is ranked as the top operatic vocal artist in Garden State high schools. Athanasiou, who plans to continue her vocal studies at the Boston Conservatory of Music, will share the stage with Patrick Martini of Union Beach as Aeneas. Shurmila Dhar (Little Silver) and Katharine Robinson (Shrewsbury) are also in the cast for Wednesday’s performance.

Appearing in The Medium on Tuesday are Gabriella Concepcion (Hazlet), Christopher Dubrow (Shrewsbury), Vincent Martini (Union Beach), Erin Murphy (Millstone), Lauren Staub (Avon) — and Little Silver’s Madelyn Monaghan, currently starring as Dorothy in the Phoenix Productions staging of The Wizard of Oz.

Tickets for either performance of A Night at the Opera, or either of the Spring Dance Concerts, are priced at $10 for adults ($5 for students or senior citizens) and may be purchased at the door, or reserved in advance by calling (732) 842-8000, ext. 227.

The vocal students will return to the RBR Theatre stage on Thursday, May 24 for a one-time choral concert entitled Comedy and Tragedy — a program that juxtaposes John Rutter’s sober “Requiem” with the comic cantata “Knock Knock” by the enigmatic “P.D.Q. Bach” (as channeled by the madly musical Professor Peter Schickele).