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Sixth form students prepare to raise curtain on their own musical production

Owen Whiteside-Ward and James O'Donnell from Notre Dame High School, Norwich who have penned an original musical called White Socks. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Owen Whiteside-Ward and James O'Donnell from Notre Dame High School, Norwich who have penned an original musical called White Socks. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

At 17 most students are thinking about exams, university or college interviews, or preparing for the world of work.

Few would be as ambitious as this pair of year 13 students from Notre Dame High School in Norwich – who are also writing and staging a full-blown musical production.

James O’Donnell and Owen Whiteside-Ward, both 17, pitched their musical White Socks to the school following the success of its last student-led production, staged in 2017.

The talented cast of the original musical White Socks in rehearsal at Notre Dame High School, Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe talented cast of the original musical White Socks in rehearsal at Notre Dame High School, Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Set in 1950s New York, it follows an unfolding romance between a performer and a casting director against a backdrop of gang warfare. It will feature some 40 performers, dancers and chorus members and a 15-piece jazz band.

James spent his summer holiday writing the musical score, which contains around 15 songs, and Owen has spent months honing the script, as well as devising choreography with help from lead actor Tiago Dhondt-Bamberger, 17.

Audiences are in for a treat as the musical score of White Socks is very catchy. Picture: Neil DidsburyAudiences are in for a treat as the musical score of White Socks is very catchy. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Owen, who wants to study theatre production at university, said: “I have been through a whole learning curve of how to direct, which has been great for my development because you do not get a lot of opportunities at my age to be a director, so when I have gone to universities they have been impressed.”

James, who hopes to read maths at Oxford University, said: “Arts are less appreciated in the modern education system so it has been a big thing to put on this whole show involving the drama, music and art departments.

Tiago Dhondt-Bamberger, 17, who plays the lead role in White socks at Notre Dame High School, Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyTiago Dhondt-Bamberger, 17, who plays the lead role in White socks at Notre Dame High School, Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“As we are quite drama and music-orientated people, so with people for whom that is not their passion it takes a lot to make them understand how much work has to go into something like this.”

Samantha Orciel, head of English at Notre Dame, who has helped to oversee the performance, said: “It is an incredible achievement, not just for students but in itself.

Talented youngsters James O'Donnell and Owen Whiteside-Ward from Notre Dame High School, Norwich. picture: Neil DidsburyTalented youngsters James O'Donnell and Owen Whiteside-Ward from Notre Dame High School, Norwich. picture: Neil Didsbury

“And they have done all this amid mock exams and attending university interviews.”

The performance is being staged following the success of Notre Dame’s first student-written production, Horizons.

Owen Whiteside-Ward directing the choreography of a musical he wrote with fellow student James O'Donnell. Picture: Neil DidsburyOwen Whiteside-Ward directing the choreography of a musical he wrote with fellow student James O'Donnell. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Ms Orciel said: “We didn’t think we would have another two students who would be willing to put in that amount of work but James and Owen did.”

• Performances of White Socks are taking place at Notre Dame High School in Surrey Street from January 17 to 19. For tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com.

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