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Park High School theater closes year with tough musical

Most of the Park High School musicals have happy themes with music that supports hopeful story lines. But this year's production, "Blood Brothers," follows the drama of two fraternal brothers who are separated at birth that ends in tragedy.

The story begins in Liverpool, England, in the 1960s and takes place over two decades with the brothers ending up at opposite ends of the social spectrum.

"It will be a new experience for the audience because we usually do happy musicals," said Tracy Caponigri, play director along with Emily Ball, both English teachers at the school.

The roles are challenging, Caponigri said, because the characters speak with a Liverpool accent. Also, the play begins when they are kids and ends when they are adults.

The story tackles social issues such as poverty and mental health, she said. Roughly based on "The Corsican Brothers" by Alexander Dumas, it is also about upper classes of society having opportunities not available to lower classes.

The musical won the 1983 Laurence Olivier Award for best new musical.

Two of Park's actors in the play, who have acted in productions since they were in junior high, are appearing in their last play before they graduate this year.

Hannah Birttnen, who has been accepted at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, plays Mrs. Lyons, the mother who takes one of the twins as her own son from Mrs. Johnstone who can't afford to raise twin boys.

"I like strong characters," she said. "She's anxious and nervous and slowly loses it."

Birttnen, who said she is a better actor than last year, worked on the character with the help of YouTube videos.

Dorsey Sprouls, who plays the brother gone bad, will attend the University of Northern Michigan next year to study graphic design and theater, said his role covers a wide range of emotions. "It's a huge challenge," he said.

Sprouls, who said he's grown with every production he's appeared in, has student-directed two chamber plays, that also helped him become a better actor.

"But, ultimately, I like being on stage," he said. "I like being in the spotlight."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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