Modesto High School ensemble joins touring Beatles musical

Teens in the Newsroom ProgramApril 30, 2013 

From left to right, Alex Hunn, Faith Tsai, Devin Lee and Amir Patel. Photo taken by Photography in Light.

PHOTOGRAPHY IN LIGHT

— I don't know about you, but I think that this Sunday, we should all slow down after a hard day's night and come together to watch something that don't let me down.

If you were able to identify at least one song reference within that sentence, then "In My Life: A Musical Theatre Tribute to the Beatles" will speak to you. If none of the phrases strikes a familiar chord, this award-winning musical biography of the Fab Four is still worth noting because it features four Modesto High School musicians.

"In my Life" tells the Beatles story from the viewpoint of manager Brian Epstein (Alxander Jon). It's February 1964, and Americans are tuned into the "Ed Sullivan Show" to see four mop top Brits play "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

The show progresses through their various musical stages, including the psychedelic era of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the creation of the haunting "Yesterday" and the raucous rock and roll of "Revolution."

It also features live music by tribute band Abbey Road and the talents of Chris Paul Overall (Paul McCartney), Gregory Wilmot (John Lennon), Jesse Wilder (George Harrison) and Axel Clarke (Ringo Starr). This production showcases pivotal moments in the extraordinary career of what's probably the most influential band of the century.

The touring show, which opened as "Ticket to Ride Musical" in 2009, commonly uses a local quartet to augment the production while on tour. Producers approached Troy Rexelle, director of the Modesto High School orchestra, who tapped members of the school's string quartet. They'll be joining the professionals on stage to add an element of orchestral texture.

Modesto High junior Devin Lee, sophomores Alex Hunn and Faith Tsai and freshman Amir Patel will accompany the band on "Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," "Day in the Life," and "Hey Jude." All are enrolled in Modesto High's prestigious International Baccalaureate Program.

Faith Tsai

Faith has been playing the violin for 10 years and also is adept at the harp, flute, guitar and drums. She was concert mistress for the Modesto Youth Symphony and is a member of the Modesto Suzuki Association. She graduated from the Suzuki violin repertoire and the Suzuki piano repertoire. She maintains a 4.69 grade point average.

Faith has been a member of the school's varsity girls golf squad for two years and last year advanced to the sectionals. She aspires to practice medicine and to continue to perform the violin.

"I think it's pretty cool and exciting," said Faith about the production.

Devin Lee

Devin has been playing the violin since seventh grade. "For electives, they offered me woodshop or orchestra and so I joined orchestra just to avoid woodshop," he said. "My love of the violin was instantaneous."

Devin swims the 100-meter breaststroke for Modesto's varsity swim team and was voted MVP of the varsity water polo team. He performed with the Stanislaus County Orchestra.

Alex Hunn

After watching his mother teach cello lessons in their home, 4-year-old Alex Hunn decided to start playing the instrument. He performs regularly with the Modesto Suzuki Association Cello Choir, is the principal cellist for the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra and recently was selected as a member of the California All-State Honor Orchestra.

"I am really excited to do this because I haven't really had much experience with Beatles music, but from what I have heard of it, I really like the music and I'd like to hear more of it," Alex said. "Being able to perform some of the music is also really fun! The music isn't too difficult, so we've been practicing separately from each other for a while. This week, we'll be practicing together."

Alex has a 4.67 grade point average, is the founder and president of the school's competitive mathematics team and is a distance swimmer on the varsity swim team.

Amir Patel

Amir has been playing the viola for six years and performed with the Modesto Youth Symphony Orchestra for two. He runs track and cross country, volunteers with the Key Club and competes in his school's Academic Decathlon. The straight-A student hopes to attend UCLA or Stanford after graduation and pursue a career in medicine or biology.

"My mother is British and introduced me to Beatles music at an early age," Amir said. "I've been a Beatles fan ever since."

The quartet will be appearing on Fresno Fox affiliate KMPH's "Good Day" program Friday morning. The students will be performing "Yesterday" with Overall, the Paul McCartney of the cast.

"In My Life" spotlights pivotal moments in the extraordinary career of the Beatles, from Liverpool's legendary Cavern Club to Shea Stadium's 50,000-plus screaming fans and the band's final live performance on the rooftop of the Apple Corp. offices.

It's also received critical acclaim.

"The show delivers!" said the Los Angeles Times.

"If you see one tribute show, see this one – smart and loads of fun," said the Orange County Register.

"This is the ticket for you," said the Idaho Statesman.

"The most original of all the shows on the Beatles," according to the San Diego Theatre Review.

"In My Life — A Musical Theatre Tribute to the Beatles" will be performed at the Merced Theatre on Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29 to $39 and may be purchased online at http://tickets. mercedtheatre.org or by calling (209) 381-0500.

The theatre is at 301 W. Main St. in Merced, 95340. The show is appropriate for all ages.

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