Heights Youth Theatre will kick off this year's season with Midsummer, a music theater adaptation of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
More than 60 kids in third through 12th grade are a part of the production, which opens at 7 p.m. this Friday at Wiley Middle School.
Nathan Motta, associate artistic director at Dobama Theatre, wrote the music and lyrics for the show, which will include a 13-piece live orchestra from the Cleveland Institute of Music and ethereal sets to bring Shakespeare's forest of fairies alive.
The cast list includes students from Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools, Beaumont School, Ruffing Montessori School, Beachwood City Schools, Shaker Heights Schools, Communion of Saints, Laurel and more, said Pamela Fine, executive director of HYT.
"(The audience) is going to be blown away. The music is beautiful. The kids have really embraced Shakespeare," Fine said. "I just want to fill that place, because I think people will be in for a treat."
Fine, who has led the non-profit since 2008, said one of the goals of HYT is to produce unique shows.
"We try to present new work, to do things that people haven't done 50,000 times," Fine said.
Another focus is to give children and teens real-world theater experience.
"Students should experience a professional audition," Fine said, adding that they bring in their own music and sing as someone plays the piano. "Our goal is to give them as much experience as possible."
And by looking at Heights Youth Theatre's Facebook page, it seems as if they've succeeded. There are multiple congratulatory posts about students working on Broadway shows.
Fine said that the experience also teaches kids the important skill of public speaking, "without freaking out."
Students auditioned for Midsummer in August, and they started rehearsing the day after Labor Day. Fine said Motta worked on the music and lyrics for well over a year.
Heights Youth Theatre has been around for nearly 60 years, Fine said. She started tearing up when she talked about the program.
"We really do provide a safe, nurturing environment for kids ... I think with anything that a child does outside of school, that they're passionate about, that you're with people who share an interest with you, is really important," she said. "I still get so choked up when I watch these kids. "
Midsummer, a music theater adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Heights Youth Theatre, performing at Wiley Middle School, 2181 Miramar Blvd., University Heights. Oct. 12, 13, 18, 19 & 20, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14 & 21, 2 p.m. Tickets: Adults $10, seniors and children younger than 6, $9. Tickets can be purchased at the door, box office opens 45 minutes before the show, cash or check only. More information: http://www.heightsyouththeatre.com/our-season-heights-youth-theatre.html