"I just met a girl named Maria": A profile of Sheri Grill
Published: Sunday, April 5, 2009 - 1:29am
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
SPRING MUSICAL 2009
- Director: Barbara Ridenour
- Music Director: Rick Murphy
- Choreographers: Kim Alexander, Alicia Cross Engelhardt
- Costume Design: Mary Stasheff
- Performances: Thursday, April 2, to Saturday, April 4, in the North Attic Playhouse; all shows were sold out
WAY BACK WHEN, in those giddy hours preceding spring break, I scanned the lounge for senior Sheri Grill, hoping to catch her for a quick interview about her role as Maria in Uni's production of "West Side Story."
I missed her at first glance and then saw her restful, dreaming form sprawled out on a far couch.
Extreme exhaustion is one of the byproducts of being in any high school play. This applies to both large and small roles, and Sheri happens to have been the female lead in the show, which played before sold-out audiences Thursday through Saturday in the North Attic Playhouse.
When I jostled her awake from her deep slumber, I wasn't quite sure who was going to wake up — Sheri or Maria. I was pleasantly surprised when it was a little bit of both.
Grill is no stranger to Uni musicals, having performed in 2007's "Anything Goes."
While musical drama demands a challenging blend of dancing, singing, and acting skills, Grill is most drawn to the vocal aspects of any given theater project.
She is currently in Uni's Chorus and is also a proud member of Madrigals. Her collegiate plans include a minor in music. Her magnificent performance in "West Side Story" was proof positive that her ambitions are right on the musical mark.
"I feel pretty and witty and bright!/ And I pity/ Any girl who isn't me tonight": Sheri Grill sings "I Feel Pretty." Gargoyle photo by David Porreca (click to enlarge)
Grill would have been content with any role in the production. She just wanted to be a part of something that matched the fun she had during "Anything Goes." She claims that she was astonished when she landed the lead role of Maria.
"It is definitely a harder show than 'Anything Goes,'" said Grill of the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim classic about rival gangs and doomed romance. "I'm in a lot more scenes, and I have more lines, so, a lot more memorizing."
Despite some similar physical characteristics that she shares with Natalie Wood's movie version of Maria, Grill insists that she has very little in common with the actual character.
In fact, she's thankful that she can't truly relate to the gang/feud/rivalry aspects of the plot. Still, she marvels at the execution that's on display in the iconic film.
"I've seen the movie and it's just a great, great production," she beamed.
During the course of our chat, senior Teddy Zamora-Mills added dramatic spark to the lounge atmosphere by thoughtfully strumming a guitar at strategic moments that seemed to reinforce Grill's answers to my questions.
Zamora-Mills was also in "West Side Story." He played the part of Bernardo, Maria's protective yet reckless older brother. Intentional or not, Grill and Zamora displayed a convincing brother/sister dynamic that came across even stronger onstage.
Grill's favorite song in the show is "Tonight." During the production she sang it with senior Daniel Borup, who played Tony, the lead male character and love interest. When pressed for details about stage kisses, Grill chose not to comment.
Asked to reveal any complaints about her "West Side Story" journey, Grill made it clear that one of her costumes was not to her liking.
"In one scene, I have a really unattractive pink fuzzy plaid robe. It's not attractive at all."
Grill echoed a common concern that marks any Uni production involving a large cast by mentioning the challenge of cramming gangs of dancing, "fighting" ruffians onto the tiny North Attic stage. She was confident, though, that everything would fall into place — as, indeed, it did.
Even with Grill in her sleepy state, I couldn't help but feel her excitement about a project that was maturing toward its climax. Always quick to share the spotlight, Grill couldn't say enough about her fellow cast members.
"The [cast] in the show is amazing," she said, voicing a sentiment that would be repeated by the hundreds of fans who filled the North Attic. "Everybody sounds really great."
And they did sound great, proving to be the perfect end to Grill's senior year.
"This show was probably one of the best experiences I've had at Uni, and I will never forget it."
Maria finds out from Chino (freshman Aramael Pena-Alcantara) that her brother, Bernardo, has been killed in a gang fight. Gargoyle photos by David Porreca (click any photo to enlarge and to create your own slideshow)
"WEST SIDE STORY" CAST, Orchestra, and Crew MEMBERS
- Tony: Daniel Borup (sr)
- Riff: Zack Goldberg (jr)
- Action: Jared Doyle (jr)
- Diesel: Will Erickson (fr)
- A-Rab: Ben Zehr (so)
- Baby John: Charlie Newman-Johnson (so)
- Snowboy: Johnny Shapley (fr)
- Velma: Brittany Scheid (jr)
- Graziella: Anna Gooler (jr)
- Anybodys: Stefanie Senior (so)
- Minnie: Erin Berl (su)
- Clarice: Sierra Marcum (sr)
- Pauline: Vivian Robison (jr)
- Jet Girls: Brianna Hajek (su), Ella Lubienski (su), Juliana Trach (su)
- Bernardo: Miguel Zamora-Mills (sr)
- Chino: Aramael Pena-Alcantera (fr)
- Pepe: Rodney LeNoir (fr)
- Luis: Stirling Lemme (su)
- Toro: Jack Gillette (su)
- Shark Members: Kaila Simpson (su), Alex Valdez (su)
- Maria: Sheri Grill (sr)
- Anita: Sarah Lake-Rayburn (sr)
- Rosalia: Karen Han (sr)
- Consuela: Lauren Piester (sr)
- Teresita: Kahlilah Cooke (so)
- Francisca: Martha Yoshida (so)
- Margarita: Maia Gersten (fr)
- Shark Girls: Melissa Rosas (su), Kaila Simpson (su), Alex Valdez (su)
- Officer Krupke: Steve Rayburn (English teacher)
- Doc: Rob Diehl (sr)
- Lt. Schrank: Jeremy Kemball (sr)
- Glad Hand: Hannah Leskosky (sr)
- Percussion: Adam Joseph (so), Chris Mathy (so)
- Clarinet: Jacob Druker (sr), Katherine Floess (so), Leif Hague (su)
- Saxophone: Clement Dossin (sr)
- Tuba: Hannah Johlas (fr)
- Bass: Carl Pearson (sr)
- Violin: Chelsea Edwards (su), Annie Rong (fr), Joey Smith (fr), Chae Won Park (su)
- Trombone: Aaron Wilson (su), Lisa Sproat (so)
- Trumpet: Robbie McMillen (fr), Ian Slauch (so)
- Flute: Francois Dossin (fr), Marie Lilly (fr)
- Cello: Petra Rantanen (su)
- Directing Assistance: Steve Rayburn
- Stage Manager: Tianna Pittenger
- Lighting Design & Board Operator: Natsuki Nakamura
- Sound: Natsuki Nakamura
- Set Design: Sierra Marcum
- Poster: Margarita Mouschovias
- Program: Lauren Piester
- T-Shirt Design: Lauren Piester