Arts & Entertainment

Westfield's Washington School Parents Prepare for Annual Show, Feb. 7 and 8

Parents rehearse a dance number for Washington School's show, Pandora's Box. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio
Under the direction of Phil Leary, Washington parents rehearse a scene from Pandora's Box. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio

WESTFIELD, NJ – Parents of Washington Elementary School students will take the stage for the school’s annual show to be held Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. and Feb 8 at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Roosevelt Intermediate School, 301 Clark Street.

This year’s show, titled Pandora’s Box, was written by Washington parent Julie Shanebrook. It’s a continuation of a tradition that began in 1948 in which parents at the school create, direct, produce and star in an original production.

“That’s what makes the show really different. It’s an original script every year,” said Shanebrook, noting that each show incorporates aspects of current popular culture. “Each show is like a little time capsule.”

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Pandora’s Box  takes its inspiration from Greek mythology and follows the adventures of four Washington pupils who discover the mythical box, open it and unleash four villains; greedy Midas, jealous Medusa, vain Narcissus and intolerant Atlas. With the aid of four helpful mythological characters, the kids work to return the evil forces back into the box.

Shanebrook, who has also written two previous school shows, said she likes to add educational material to her work.

“I love writing the show,” she said. “I love being in it.”

The annual show is a major fundraiser and social event for the school community. Last year’s production raised $31,000 for Washington School, according to senior producer Liz Mulholland.

In past years, funds raised from the show went toward the purchase of smart boards for classrooms, playground equipment and the construction of a track behind the school.

“It’s always amazing to see how dedicated the parents, principal and staff are and how talented everyone is,” Mulholland said. “It is truly a team effort that everyone seems to greatly enjoy. Most look forward to being part of this fantastic tradition year after year.”

In the month of rehearsals leading up to opening night, some parent actors practice six days a week, while members of the chorus meet three times a week, Mulholland noted. Parents who don’t care for the limelight can be involved in behind the scenes work, such as building sets or putting together the playbills.

Despite the long tradition of the originality for each year’s production, the shows must meet certain requirements.

First, it must have an overall theme. The show has to feature individual numbers for couples, teachers and men in drag. The show must also include a tap dance routine and, the line “Hello Muck, Hiya Mire,” which has its roots in a 1940s Errol Flynn movie.

In the end, most kids get a kick out of seeing their parents act, sing or dance. Sisters Margaret and Katie Ferris said they will also be proud of their mom, Lesley Anne Ferris, for being part of the chorus.

Margaret, who is in fourth grade, said she “begged” her mom to do the show.

“It’s just fun seeing my mom on the stage,” she said. This will be Lesley Anne Ferris’s second time in the annual show.

“Hands down, the best part of doing the show is meeting new people,” Lesley Anne Ferris said. “You have a special connection with them while rehearsing, and it carries over once the show is over.”

The girls will try to convince their dad to be part of the men’s number next year, too.

“The men’s number is the funniest,” said Katie, a second grader.

Tickets are $12 for all seats for each performance and can be reserved online on Washington school’s home page,, then by following the link for the 2014 Washington School Show. Tickets ordered online and paid in advance can be picked up at the door 30 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets can also be bought at the door, pending availability.

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