In the Spotlight

After two years of eerily dark auditoriums around town, actors are once again bringing the joy and energy of live theater to grateful audiences.

Staples Players follows their fall smash hit, Grease, with Descendants—a modern fairytale based on the wildly popular Disney Channel original movie. The show opens on April 1 and runs for two weekends (April 1, 2, 8, and 9 at 7:30 pm; April 2, 3, and 9 at 3 pm). David Roth (SHS ’84) and Kerry Long (SHS ’97) co-direct, with choreographer Rachel MacIsaac and musical director Luke Rosenberg overseeing the bold dance numbers and dynamic soundtrack.

“We were looking for a show that had a lot of roles, in order to feature our upperclassmen who have had their high school experience disrupted by the pandemic,” says director David Roth. “Our friend (and former Staples Player) Caley Beretta is Manager of Creative Development for Disney Theatrical Group. She had recently finished working on developing a new musical, Descendants, which she thought would be a great fit for our group. We listened to the recording of the show, read the script and were sold!” Beretta and Descendants’ playwright Nick Blaemire recently visited Staples to share insight on the development of the musical as well as work with the students on stage. Cast members were also interviewed by Disney for marketing materials for the show.

Incorporating everything from classic moral dilemmas to refreshed, reimagined teen friendships and romances—not to mention wicked costumes and wild hip-hop numbers—Descendants has something for all ages. Tickets are available (and going fast!) at: https://www.staplesplayers.com/

Coleytown Middle School celebrates the 25th anniversary of its theater program, Coleytown Company, with SpongeBob the Musical, from April 8 to 10. Director Ben Frimmer and his cast of 40 are thrilled to be back on stage with their first full-scale musical since before the pandemic.

Think SpongeBob is just a bumbling chatterbox cartoon character and inspiration for a very gooey, yellow ice-cream on a stick? Think again. The SpongeBob television series was created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg, and the musical tells a story of how to choose hope and friendship in a world that is coming apart. With its gentle treatment of themes like xenophobia, climate disasters and the importance of accepting science, SpongeBob the Musical couldn’t be more timely.

The 7th- and 8th-grade tech crew are building the set using garbage and other recycled materials, creating an imaginary ocean out of what might otherwise end up in the real ocean. Choreographer Aimee Turner is a former Broadway dancer and costume designer Robin Mazzola is a theater professor at Wesleyan. Vocal coach Clay Zambro fine tunes the singing while jazz pianist Chris Coogan conducts the pit orchestra, rounding out a team that promises to bring you a top-notch production with plenty of sparkles, glitter and heart. Tickets are available at: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/62268

Local teens and parents (some of them professional actors, some new to the stage) presented a stage production of the classic ’80s film The Breakfast Club at Toquet Hall last weekend through Cynthia Gibb’s performing arts school, Triple Threat Academy. Gibb, who acted in her share of 80s’ hits (Youngblood, Jack’s Back, Modern Girls, Short Circuit 2), directed a Zoom production of the John Hughes’ film during the pandemic and the results were so impressive that she vowed to put Westport’s own Brat Pack on the stage once it was safe to do so. The cast included father-son duo Nick Sadler (Scent of a Women, True Grit, Paterno) and Cooper Sadler, mother-daughter duo Jean Louisa Kelly aka Pitaro (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Uncle Buck, The Fantasticks) and Josy Pitaro, as well as Cameron Mann (Mare of Easttown, Daredevil), Brian Lombardi, Ariana Brodows, Mario Manna (you can see his daughter Chloe in Staples’ Descendants), Micheal Sharits (FBI: Most Wanted, Rosy, Prodigal Son), and David Smith. Triple Threat offers youth through adult acting classes as well as dance and vocal training and workshops with industry professionals. Visit: https://triplethreat.us/

Greens Farms School’s production of Willy Wonka also wowed audiences last weekend, assuring the pipeline of young talent is flowing nicely again after a temporary freezing by the pandemic. Well done, Suzanne Propp, Ellen Hardy, and their cast of fifth graders, whose vocal pipes are clearly in good order!

Professional theater is also back. Westport Country Playhouse kicks off its season with Next to Normal, April 5 – 24. Considering the recent years stuck at home streaming TV shows until your eyes crossed, why not subscribe to the full season: https://www.westportplayhouse.org/whats-on/

Music Theatre of Connecticut’s MainStage series kicks off with The Buddy Holly Story March 18 to April 10.

SPONGEBOB: Ari Sklar (back) as “SpongeBob” with Joey Vazquez as “Patrick.”
THE BREAKFAST CLUB: Westport’s Brat Pack: Cooper Sadler (“John Bender”), Josy Pitaro (“Claire”), Ariana Brodows (“Allison”), Brian Lombardi (“Brian”), and Cameron Mann (“Andrew”).
THE BREAKFAST CLUB: Mario Manna (“Carl”), Celia Maddaloni (stage manager), Ellery Bodell (“Allison” understudy), Megan Sargent (“Claire” understudy), Cooper Sadler (“John Bender”), Keith Contreras-McDonald (director), Nick Sadler (“Principal Vernon”), Josy Pitaro (“Claire”), Ariana Brodows (“Allison”), Brian Lombardi (“Brian”), Cameron Mann (“Andrew”). Not pictured: Jean Louisa Kelly (“Brian’s Mom”), Michael Sharits (“Claire’s Dad”), David Smith (“Andrew’s Dad”).
The live audience abuzz in Toquet Hall after the performance of “The Breakfast Club.”
WILLY WONKA: Leanna Mitev (Willy Wonka) and the Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka at GFS.
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