RANDOLPH, NJ- As the audience walked into the softly lit auditorium, the vibrant backdrop of 1960’s Baltimore greeted them. Acting oblivious to the patrons taking their seats, girls in 60's garb sat upon the stage, mingling and talking in character around a newsstand.
You would hardly believe you were in a middle school, whose students were about to perform the musical Hairspray.
At stage right, a house living room is set with a leather couch, ironing board, and old-fashioned television set. Stage left was set up as a small bedroom.
Energetic Tracy Turnblad (Samara Fishkin) opens the show singing "Good Morning Baltimore". The number continued as Tracy's younger sister, Daisy (Olivia Traub) sang an enthusiastic solo admidst the backdrop of an upbeat ensemble of dancers.
With a flash of the curtain, the audience was brought onto the set of “The Corney Collins Show”, a fictitious 1960’s teenage dance show where Tracy dreams of being a dancer. The TV set scenes were led by well portrayed "stereotypical TV host" Corny (Regina McElroy), and her side kick Dominique ( Jenna Manderioli ).
Penny (Kayla Bachrach) the gum chewing, bubble blowing airhead friend of Tracy, and Daisy, the oft forgotten little sister of Tracey, were the characters whose whimsical personalities and jokes lightened the mood, even while facing the challenges of a rejecting society. They complimented the role of Tracy, making her character colorful and alive.
When the actors were asked about their favorite scenes, Bachrach commented, “My favorite scene was when Daisy and I were answering phones, and my character tried to answer a Fisher Price toy phone. The audience would always laugh, and the best part of being in a play is when you get a great reaction from the crowd.”
The mother and daughter characters in the show clearly had excellent chemistry. This was evident in the number "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now". Tracy and her mother, Edna Turnblad (Christina Elejalde) open the scene stage right, while Penny (Bachrach) and her mother Prudy (Kaitlyn Kudriavitz) are stage left, each arguing in their own homes. They make their way to center stage and are joined by Amber Von Tussle (Haley Ornstein) and her mother, Velma Von Tussle (Alex Locke), and Brenda (Jordan Pontelandolfo) and her mother (Stephanie Heiberg), where the number really kicks in.
When asked about the chemistry they had, Locke said, “I love how everyone in the show was like a family to me, and we always had fun together.”
The devilish duo, of Amber Von Tussle and Velma Von Tussle served as sassy, cunning antagonists that were very entertaining. Velma Von Tussle (Locke) shined in " Miss Baltimore Crabs", and Amber had her own number to bash Tracy, "Cooties", performed to perfection.
While on the Corney Collins show, Tracy falls for Link, the teen heartthrob. Link (Zach Kozma) dates the self centered, queen of mean Amber Von Tussle, but ultimately joins Tracy to fight for what is right in trying to end segregation in Baltimore .
Christina Elejalde was hilarious as Tracy's mother. She was convincing and motherly in her mannerisms, body language, and tone of voice, as she morphed from a complacent, frumpy housewife, to a stylish, yet still level headed mom.
One of the many captivating scenes in the show was set in the schoolyard. Here, Seaweed (Arnav Chakraborty) and Little Inez (Rebecca Jacobson) sung "Run and Tell That.” The song and vocals were soulful and buoyant.
Also in the schoolyard, Motormouth Maybelle (Gabby Toledo) sang "Big, Blonde and Beautiful". The audience erupted with applause, shouts, and whistles at her soulful, uplifting performance. Her performance of "I Know Where I've Been", where she was joined by Elena Rosetti, was the most dramatic and moving number of the show. The song, sung with a solemn undertone to fit the severity of the problems segregation created, aroused roaring applause from the audience.
“My favorite part was when Motormouth sang her song,” Christine Cavaliere, a student of Randolph High School said.
Tracy's father, Wilbur Turnblad (Owen Weiss) and Edna Turnblad proved the chemistry of their characters in "Timeless to Me". Weiss explained the synergy that they, (and the whole cast) shared, stating, “It was one of the best experiences for me in RMS because I found all different people who love to sing, dance, and act. I found my family.”
The cast wrapped up the musical just as it had started- full of energy, singing “You Can’t Stop the Beat”. The satisfaction was clearly evident on every performers face for this ending number as they closed the show. Bachrach confirmed this, stating, “My favorite dance was the finale because it allowed everyone in the cast to sing and dance together at one time.”
On the final number, Kozma commented, "It was a long and difficult dance and song to perform with so many kids. But under Mr. Sackerman's direction, everyone did great and the scene was a big success." When asked what the whole experience was like, he said, "I will always cherish the friends I made and the memories we had."
Echoing that sentiment was eighth grader Jordan Pontelandolfo, "After the last show was over we were all very sad, especially the eighth graders. I can't believe that something that has been such a huge part of my life for the past three years is over."
All of the cast members had great energy, and were professional and on time with all of their cues. The cast remained in character throughout the entire show, even when the spotlight wasn't exactly on them.
“My favorite part was when Stephany Heiberger did four back handsprings,” Shelly Goldstein, a student at Randolph High School said.
Richard Sackerman, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Randolph Middle School, was the show's director. He has directed previous RMS shows, (most recently, Peter Pan, Aida, and Beauty and the Beast). Ms. Krysta Hziyak was the producer.
Stage managers were students Erin O’Neill, Katie O’Neill and Victoria Zacieracha. Students Alex Locke and Regina McElroy were captains, and student Kate Schlusberg was the dance captain.
After the show, the hallways were filled with chatter among the audience about how well performed and choreographed the show was. When Mr. Sackerman appeared, compliments and congratulations were overflowing.
Bachrach summed up the experience, stating, “It is sad for the eighth graders, because we have to leave Mr. Sackerman, Mrs. Hyziak, and Ms. Pariseau (choreographer), and all of the 6th and 7th graders. However it feels good that we ended our show on a high note (literally).”