Religions and Spirituality

Pope John Performs Hairspray for Senior Citizens, Parents and Peers

Erik Massenzio (left), who is one of the directors of the play and who plays Wilbur Turnblad, and Tom Adams (right) who plays Edna Turnblad. Credits: Sonia Geba
"Hairspray" t-shirt that all members of the Pope John Players wore to school on Wednesday before the first showing to the senior citizens.  Credits: Sonia Geba
"Hairspray" t-shirt that all members of the Pope John Players wore to school on Wednesday before the first showing to the senior citizens.  Credits: Sonia Geba
Christina Mendralla (left) and Hayley Kerrison (right), both members of Leadership Council and servers for Dinner Theater Night, are receiving their food to serve to parents. Credits: Sonia Geba
Tori Litterio on the left and Dominique Zaugg on the right, Leadership Council Coordinators and Servers, bringing empty bowls back down to the cafeteria from the parents eating upstairs. Credits: Sonia Geba

SPARTA, NJ - ​The Pope John Players performed ‘Hairspray’ for the first time this past Wednesday for the senior citizens of the Sparta community, energizing the stage with the first manifestation of all they have worked hard for these past few months.

After hours of rehearsal almost every day of the week since before Christmas break, the stars of the Pope John stage kicked off their string of performances this week by giving back to the elderly of the community.

“I’m so glad we are able to give a free show to the senior citizens, and also there is a dinner that we have for them in the cafeteria afterward. It’s so nice to be able to talk to them because they’re always full of conversation, and I think that’s one of my favorite parts of the shows,” said Erik Massenzio, Director and Actor, about the historical Senior Citizen Night.

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About the show itself, Massenzio, one of the two directors, exclaimed in his full Wilbur Turnblad attire, “the show went wonderfully. I am so happy the cast was able to hold together and treat each other so respectfully and like a family.”

The players truly acted as such, both on and off stage, by pre-show pep rumbling on the cafeteria tables, before going on and celebrating in the sensation of accomplishment afterward by embracing one another.

​The show schedule proceeded beginning with Senior Citizen Night on Wednesday afternoon, followed by Opening Night on Thursday night, Dinner Theater for parents on Friday, and two final performances on Saturday.

Throughout this past week, the players have excelled and improved tremendously, even yielding standing ovations after some performances. Michaella Barracato, a Hair and Makeup Crew Member and avid fan, explained her take on Opening Night, by reflecting, “Gabrianna’s piece gave me goose bumps. Sam Silverman excelled in her part. I felt the show was casted perfectly.”
Directed by Erik Massenzio and Timothy Schanstra, and produced by Jordan LeFrois and Nicholas Warner, the show featured some of the school’s greatest musical and theatrical talents, starring Joy O’Brien as Tracy Turnblad, Dan Cunico as Corny Collins, Tom Adams as Edna Turnblad, Gabrianna Boomer as Motormouth Mabel, Peter Born as Link Larkin, Samantha Silverman as Velma Von Tussle, and many more outstanding actors, singers and dancers. In fact, most of the performers are triple-threats in many ways, as singing, dancing and acting are essential to the plot of the Broadway hit.
Massenzio, who plays Wilbur Turnblad, even added a dimension of humor in his part as he explained about his number with Tom Adams, “singing itself is pretty hard, since it’s the first singing role I’ve had that has a solo in it, but after a certain point the dancing comes very naturally and you just have a good time with it, and if you’re having a good time then the audience is going to have a good time as well.”
​The Dinner Theater night was especially important for the players, for they were to perform for the people who supported them most through their months of commitment to the Pope John Theater Program. Students from the Pope John Leadership Council stayed after school, volunteering to serve the parents, teachers and other fans that came to the dinner.
Dominique Zaugg, Dinner Theater Coordinator and Server, was happy to help, stating, “I feel very good about donating my time to serve these people who have supported the Pope John Players from the beginning.”
Not only have parents and teachers supported the players, however, for the entire community seemed to have come together to cheer them on whether they were senior citizens, parents, teachers, peers or Newton rivals, who attended several performances and will be performing "Hairspray" themselves in a few weeks.
​The entire experience has been an arduous process, as Hair and Makeup Crew Member Gabriella Nuovo confessed on the night of the final performance, “It has been a long day staying at Pope John for hours to help out, but it will all be worth it, because this final performance will undoubtedly be the best.”
Without a doubt, the players sang, danced and acted their hearts out for the final show, which for many was their last Pope John performance, as numerous seniors were acknowledged Saturday night for all their years of dedication to the program. It has been a memorable experience for all and will continue to be in their memories, just like the other outstanding performances the players have produced in the past.
As with most things that are passed on, the seniors will pass the baton to future performers, wishing them good luck with a fond “break a leg!” and lasting support for future singers, dancers and actors alike.


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