The Rocky Point Middle School followed the yellow brick road and presented their successful school musical, “The Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition.” on Nov. 17 and 18.
The annual Middle School production brought together 112 students, 13 teachers and countless family and community members for a successful and joyful collaboration of theatre and joyful music making.
Rehearsals started in September with students learning their roles, songs, dances and blocking. “The first few weeks of school are filled with a mix of nerves, excitement and learning as students reunite with old friends, begin to make new ones, and adjust to their new schedule and teachers,” Middle School musical producer Emily Farrell said. “Auditioning for a school musical during the second week of school is not an easy task and takes a lot of courage, heart and intuition. These are all qualities that the students truly embodied throughout our show, just as the Wizard kindly points out. I am so proud of this multi-talented group of students who learned to balance commitments with sports, clubs and high standards in academics with detailed dance steps, complex harmonies, emotive acting and a thorough understanding of teamwork. Congratulations to all students involved on a fantastic performance!
For the first time, high school students had the opportunity to be a part of the production team and gain real-life experience. Emma Maher and Renee Ortiz were the assistant director and assistant producer, respectively, learning and helping with all of the organization and planning that goes on behind the scenes. Maya MacCarthy was the assistant choreographer, and Maya Alexander and Derek Bergmann were the dance captains, creating and teaching dances that helped students of all dance levels shine on stage. Cjay Hall and Jennifer Sandusky took charge of making the magic happen during the show as the stage managers.
“In addition to their production team roles, the high school students set the example and shared their wisdom and experience with the middle school students. They were an invaluable part of the production team and the younger students looked up to them in such a positive way,” musical director and vocal coach Ms. Jessica Spitz said.
In October, rehearsals continued and cast members and their families attended two family volunteer days to help build sets, costumes and props. In this show, most of the cast members had three or more costumes during the show, so the families and cast members came with glue guns, scissors and sewing machines to make miracles happen. In addition, American Sign Language teachers Mrs. Deborah Elcik and Mrs. Eileen Fioto worked with the students to teach them the ASL for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which was received enthusiastically by the students and was included in the performance.
In November, stage crew and tech crew joined rehearsals. The tech crew, under the direction of Andy Cooper and Carrie George, were the first students to use the brand-new microphones purchased last year for the Rocky Point Theatre Program. Anthony Nobre, Joseph Gabrinowitz, and Seth Meier created beautiful set pieces and the student-run stage crew brought their magic to life from smoke and bubbles, to talking heads and flying balloons!
The week of the show, “Tech Week,” was very busy for all students involved! It started with the traditional trip to the Joseph A. Edgar School, where the middle school cast performed for each of the lunch periods. These “teaser” performances generated a strong level of interest from the JAE students, not only to attend the weekend performance, but also to get involved in the musical when they become middle school students.
During after school rehearsals, the High School cosmetology students, under the direction of Mrs. Jeanne Stiastny and Mrs. Chelsea Palasek, applied their skills to help the students with their hair and stage make-up. The auditorium and hallways were buzzing with excitement on Friday and Saturday night for the performances in Rocky Point’s newly renovated auditorium.
“I’m so impressed by the talent of our middle school students,” musical choreographer Mrs. Jaimie Mancini said. “They dedicated so much time and effort, and it really paid off. I am also extremely proud of our high school students who served as mentors. They led by example and used their expertise to help continue to build our theater programs.”
“My favorite thing about theatre is the way it brings so many people together; so many backgrounds, skill sets, and ages, all working towards a common goal,” Ms. Spitz said. “It is not only the students you see on stage, but the families and teachers who encourage them and the high school students who come back to help a program that was so important to their own middle school experience. The students can feel the genuine support and encouragement and it is so meaningful to them. One of the magical moments about closing night was hearing all of the students saying “thank you” to the parent volunteers, the teachers and high school students, the custodians, and the security guards whenever they passed one in the hallway. Even in the middle of their own exciting performance, they can feel the support of an entire community!”
A congratulatory message from Rocky Point Secondary Music Department Chairperson Ms. Amy Schecher read: “The students and staff involved in this production worked incredibly hard this year. We are fortunate to have such talented students and dedicated faculty here in Rocky Point. A production of this magnitude also could not be possible without the continual encouragement of the parents of the cast and crew. Congratulations to all involved!”
Rocky Point Elementary Music Department Chairperson Mr. Craig Knapp, added, “It is such an amazing treat to see what my former students can achieve in the one to three years after they leave JAE. Their progress and development are amazing and their performance was awe-inspiring. Witnessing my former students on the stage performing with such artistry and independence fills me with joy. The students were stellar and I am so pleased that members of our Music Department are now involved with the production of the Middle School musical. I am also very thankful to all of the teachers, staff and parents for all of their help and support with this musical. I am very proud, the show was outstanding!”
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