West Bancroft Side Story: cast and back story

By Feliza Casano

Copy Chief

Published: Monday, January 10, 2011

Updated: Monday, January 10, 2011

WestBancroftSideStory

Feliza Casano / IC

West Bancroft Side Story stars Megan Beckett and Nick Kneer posing at the UT Library

During the Spring 2011 semester at the University of Toledo, be on the lookout for something suspiciously musical on UT's campus channel.

UTTV Student Broadcasting and WXUT are collaborating to create "West Bancroft Side Story," a three-episode miniseries parodying the classic story of "Romeo and Juliet."

"[The show] takes the musical ‘West Side Story,' which was based on ‘Romeo and Juliet,' and puts it into the universe of the University of Toledo campus," said Nick Kneer, a junior majoring in psychology. "You replace the gangs with factions of different dorms that people live in, the locations obviously are all Toledo-based, and it's a lot of fun."

"West Bancroft Side Story" follows Joey DeMarco and Sonia Long, two UT students who fall in love but stand divided because they live in different dorms.

The role of Joey is played by Kneer and the role of Sonia is played by Megan Beckett, a senior majoring in theater.

"When [Sonia] meets Joey, she likes him as a boyfriend, but she also warns him that she's not really looking for that much of a relationship: she wants to learn mechanical engineering and she wants to get Joey to tutor her," Kneer said. "One of the lines of the songs is kind of funny because she's saying that she ‘doesn't really have time to kiss' and Joey says ‘I can wait a date or two to get some makeout time with you,' and that's kind of their relationship."

Joey lives in the Ottawa West dormitory with his best friend Marky Layman. Marky, the instigator of Ottawa, is played by Gage Howell, a sophomore majoring in math education.

The overly-romantic Joey and practical joker Marky are offset by the grounded character Ben Ramirez, played by sophomore psychology major Katie Nelson, who keeps the two in line – whether they are joking about flirting with girls or procrastinating studying for midterm exams.

"She's also a good friend to Joey and helps give him advice," Kneer said.

Ben's boyfriend, Ashleigh Carter, is played by Dale Balister, a junior majoring in art and theatre.

"Ashleigh is very unfortunate," Kneer said. "He gets hurt a lot, and he's definitely a comic relief sort of character."

The Ottawa group also includes two main ensemble members played by sophomore Joe Repka and junior Randiah Green, both majoring in communication.

Part of the show focuses on Sonia, who faces blocks in her path mainly because of her parents' expectations.

"She has been sort of pushed towards one life working in sales, and really what's in her heart is to follow her dream of becoming an engineer, a mechanical engineer, which she thinks is a lot cooler than just making sales because she can create things," Kneer said.

Sonia is the younger sister of the overprotective Greg Long, played by senior music major Nick Bellmyer. Greg is the leader of a group of students living in the Dowd/Nash/White dorms.

Rounding out the Quad half of the cast are Jaleeah Williams and Munich Hodgeson, both played by freshmen: international business major Sarah Fatemi and film major Tyler Holtzman, respectively.

"[Jaleeah is] Sonia's best friend and her brother's girlfriend," Fatemi said. "They don't approve of [Sonia] seeing Joey."

"[Munich] is absolutely in love with Sonia, and he and Greg are old friends, but aside from that he just seems very reserved, I'd say," Holtzman said.

The Quad cast also includes a major ensemble member played by David Bousonville, a junior majoring in psychology and theatre.

"Basically, all the characters just have some kind of – something that makes them different from the other characters in the show," Fatemi said. "Like for instance, Munich. He doesn't talk. He talks with his hands and with background music. It's just great. All the characters are unique in their own way."

Unlike other musicals cast members have participated in, "West Bancroft Side Story" will be filmed rather than performed on stage.

"It's definitely a lot different from a stage production because you can't put everything together at once," Kneer said. "You film in short bunches and you record things in a studio and you can't see them all come together at once in one long take, so it's a lot different."

The cast began filming in November and continues this semester.

"I think one of the biggest things is how accessible it is," Kneer said. "You take modern songs and rewrite them to fit the script, you take a story that's familiar to everybody, you throw in some little in-jokes to people who have seen ‘West Side Story' and things like that... It's light-hearted, it's fun, entertaining, it's got great music, and I think that it'll really be a lot of fun for people to watch."

Kneer said that the idea of starting filming next weekend is a little intimidating "for me as a cast member who's just starting a week of classes," but he agrees with Fatemi and Holtzman, who both expressed excitement for filming to begin.

"I've been looking forward to this all winter break," Holtzman admitted.

Fatemi sees the filming as more than just a way to end winter break boredom or liven up the spring semester.

"I know it sounds vain, but I feel like a movie star, kind of, just because I get to get dressed up and having hair and makeup done, singing and acting, basically being in a music video," she said. "It's just an experience. I've never done anything like that before."

For Kneer, though, the experience means something different.

"I really missed being a part of something like this ever since I left high school, and I didn't really think I was going to get another opportunity like I have to work on something like this," he said. "I think it's a really cool project and I'm proud to be part of it."

- To learn more, check out the "West Bancroft Side Story" page on Facebook.com.

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