To simulate the musical's underwater scenes, cast members are wearing "Heelys," sneakers with wheels on the soles. They also are wearing intricate costumes based on the musical's Broadway production, Miller said.

Other high schools, like Marriotts Ridge, are sticking with the classics. For years, students in Livingston's Drama I class have studied "Arsenic and Old Lace," a dark comedy where a drama critic's aunts cheerfully poison older men.

"It's an unusual story, and kids get a kick out of it," she said.

This year, the school is moving it out of the classroom and onto to the stage. More than 60 students are involved with the production.

While the Brewster sisters, played by seniors Gabby Nagle and Ryann Marchetti, are the main characters, their 13 victims make comedic appearances throughout the performance in zombie-like makeup.

Howard High School also is performing a comedic classic with "The Odd Couple," a story of two mismatched roommates. But this performance comes with a twist. Students will perform the male and female versions of the play on alternating nights. All actors use the same set and many of the same props, said Laura Tschirgi, theater teacher at Howard High School.

"It is fascinating to see how each cast of student actors have interpreted their roles differently and developed two very distinct but equally powerful and hilarious performances," she said.

The cast and crew for both Howard plays include more than 25 students.

At River Hill, Dial said he's looking forward to opening night. He has spent months rehearsing scenes, practicing choreographed sword fights and even making his voice fluctuate between a deep, baritone to a nasal, high pitch, all to bring Captain Hook to life.

Still, his performance will be bittersweet. Dial will leave high school theater behind this spring when he graduates. But the acting bug? He'll take that with him.

"It can't cut me off," said Dial, channeling his inner captain. "I'm hooked."