Liberty’s “West Side Story”: Athletic Director Fred Harris was good; but he’s no Liam Mulligan

I left the sports world on Saturday for a doubleheader of another kind — a musical theater twin bill that took me and my family to Dieruff High School during the day for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and to Liberty at night for “West Side Story.

I’ve been saying for years that the best bargain in the Lehigh Valley are these high school productions that have upped their game since the advent of the Freddy Awards, which is coming up this year on May 25 at the State Theatre in Easton.

I’ve also said that if I could, I’d see them all, but my schedule just won’t allow it.

So, this year, I had to settle for five — Northwestern’s “Legally Blonde,” Emmaus’ “Miss Saigon” and Freedom’s “Peter Pan” being the others.

They were all terrific.

I also heard that Allen’s “Bonnie and Clyde” was fantastic with Emma Marhefka, last year’s Freddy-award winning actress, superb in her final high school production.

Nazareth’s “Mary Poppins,” Parkland’s “Pippin,” Bangor’s and Northern Lehigh’s “Beauty & the Beast,” Central Catholic and Northampton’s “Anything Goes,” Becahi’s “Oklahoma” — I heard good things about all of them. I am sure there were great performances in all 29 shows.

Wish I could have seen them all, and maybe one day I will.

But Saturday was the last day for shows before the Freddy Award nominations come out and I was thrilled to see two shows. While I am not a judge, I am sure both Dieruff and Liberty will again receive nominations.

They were both great shows.

Dieruff’s “Superstar” took some risks with a contemporary, updated look at the universally-known Jesus story that has been retold for more than 2000 years now. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is powerful and the show is intense and dramatic.

It takes some great acting, dancing and singing, and Dieruff delivered as usual with Mark Youwakim, who was nominated for “The Producers” shining again as Jesus. Dedrik Ramos as Caiaphas and Nikki Perez as Mary Magdalene also were among the many stars who shined.

Just a breathtaking performance, one that drew an emotional response and hit your heart regardless of your religious beliefs and affiliation.

This theatre group has been a source of pride for the school and that pride was only enhanced by this production.

And then it was on to Liberty. My first surprise was that Liberty athletic director Fred Harris was in the cast, playing the role of cigar-chomping, trench coat-wearing, crusty, grumpy Schrank, the police detective assigned was supposed to be keeping an eye on the Jets and Sharks, the gangs at the heart of the story.

I’ve known Fred for years as quite a character. He’s also an accomplished public address announcer and worked the big District 11 basketball semifinals at the PPL Center. He thrived in his limited role on stage. Kudos for him to get out there and mix it up with the kids. Well done.

But while Harris delviered the New York-accent perfect in his role as a detective, the voices…

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