I felt very honored to be invited to attend the final dress rehearsal of Newtown High School Drama Department's production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying before the show opens on Thursday. I shared the massive auditorium at the high school with a decent-sized group of senior citizens that had just been served a dinner by the high school students and now were treated to a performance of their spring musical. And what a treat it was!
I often try to include a quote from the director in my reviews, but here I will include Jane Matson's entire director's note:
Each year I choose a show to present and each year there is a goal behind that choice. Challenging music, demanding choreography or the requirement for an intricate set are some of the hurdles we have jumped in the past. After December, that goal no longer mattered. We are simply working together to create something positive. Not because it fixed anything, not because of any larger agenda other than, it brings peace to sing, dance, play and build together.
We also take comfort in the fact that we may now share our show with you, our community, in the hopes that you will find joy in the accomplishments of these talented sons and daughters of Newtown.
We wish to dedicate our show to all who were lost, all who have lost and all who support.
I have attended many excellent high school productions both before and after I began writing reviews for Patch and I can definitely say that this show ranks among the best I have ever seen. The talent of every one of the performers is outstanding. The production values are so very impressive. Just when I thought that the musical numbers couldn't possibly get any better, they did. This show is simply joyous.
One hundred students are involved in the musical onstage, behind the scenes and in the pit orchestra and they have been in rehearsal since November. Almost 40 of the singers wear microphones. The large number of stage crew members work together seamlessly to manage the massive set painted in period pastels that truly rivaled the one I had seen on Broadway. The revolving elevator is a standout. Beautiful lighting, which includes the blackout with the spotlight on Finch throughout the show, adds much to the scenes. The costumes and hair are perfectly period appropriate; the Paris originals are runway ready for the time period. The large (but not overly so) ensemble, which includes a good number of young men who can dance, fills the stage with beautiful singing, authentic choreography (yes, there IS tap dancing, as a matter of fact) and superb acting that belies the age of these teens.
Ms. Matson, the choral teacher at the high school, has directed the students with a keen eye for the humor in the show. As the musical director, she helped the students to perform each song perfectly. Since she choreographed the dance numbers as well, she qualifies as a unique type of triple threat. She has been involved with Musicals at Richter for a long while and shared some of the work of getting this show on the stage with the Executive Director of MAR and the producer of the show Janice Gabriel. Tom Morris serves as Assistant Musical Director and both conducts and plays keyboard with the large and amazing pit orchestra, comprised almost exclusively of students.
Aidan Petershack is strong as Chairman of the Board Womper and David Swigart is just as good as Ovington. Kirsten Liniger is a lovely Miss Krumholtz and Kyle Watkins is very funny as Mr. Twimble. Katie Wolff act so much older than her years as Miss Jones. Alison Kron and Morgan Winters are a riot as the Scrubwomen. Austin Isola, Joseph DeVellis, Tom Primavera, Jeff Haylon, Craig Landgrebe, Kyle Mangold and John Mudgett all play the featured businessmen roles very well.
Josh Goldman truly shines in the role of the "villain" Bud Frump, while Nick Madden is impressive as J.B.Biggley. Charles Dumais has the perfect voice for the role of the offstage Book Voice. Emily Anderson is perfectly lovely as Rosemary and sings beautifully. Michelle Spanedda brings a charm to role of Hedy, as well as a fun accent and a great singing voice. Brianna Bauch, a senior, is simply adorable in the role of Smitty; she is a young lady to watch.
In the title role of J. Pierrepont Finch, Taylor Varga blew me away. An extremely talented actor, singer and dancer, he honestly is on par with Daniel Radcliff. Mr. Varga is appearing in his fourth and final spring musical at NHS and has appeared at Goodspeed, Mohegan Sun and Madison Square Garden.
Congratulations to each and every member of this fine cast of students and the caring adults who work with them. All the hard work they all put into producing this masterpiece was worth it. This is a show that I will never forget.
The supportive parents of the NHS students have tickets for the upcoming four shows, but they should be sure to bring along every available member of their families and all their friends. The public can purchase tickets for any of the performances at the door, and I highly recommend that they do so. This is a show that no one in Newtown and surrounding towns should miss.