SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Spotswood High School Gymnasium was rocking last night and it wasn't just the thunderstorm outside causing all the excitement. A group of spirited fifth graders, making up the Appleby School's Drama Club, took the court against a team comprised of their teachers and staff. The Leaping Lizards were made up of fifth graders performing in the school's annual spring production. This year's play is "Annie Jr." The spring performance has become a tradition at the school for Appleby fifth graders. Helmetta Mayor Chris Slavicek will be directing his fifteenth production this April. Mr. Chris, as he is affectionately known to students, staff and parents, was also the coach of the Leaping Lizards.

The game is a fundraiser for the student production, with all of the proceeds from the February 25 basketball game going towards the April 27, 28 and 29 performances. A team of 13 Appleby teachers and staff including, Claudia Addesso, Megan Curto, Catherine Fitzgerald, Jill Laskowski, Kerri McDonnell, Lauren Siwiak, Nicole VonFrolio, Kristen Tempera, Randi Snook, Stephanie Weisslitz, Denise Dellaglio and Maria Karczewski,hit the court to take on their students. Spotswood High School Business, Vocational and Techonology Education teacher, Andrew Zaborney provided the play-by-play. Zaborney's son Nick will be playing the part of the Dog Catcher in the upcoming play.

Parent-volunteers played a central part in the evening, selling concessions, 50/50 raffle tickets and even reffing the game. The Leaping Lizards took a 28-22 lead into the halftime break and went on to win the game 54-44. While the kids and teachers were all smiles whenever they made a basket, the mood of the evening was more about fun than winning.

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Halftime and between quarter entertainment was provided by the Leaping Lizards Cheerleaders. Participation in the game was voluntary for the student-performers. They had the option of signing up to be players or cheerleaders. Each players got to play two three-minute shifts to ensure that all of the 40-plus players were able to hit the court for a turn while the cheerleaders showed off the spirit on the sidelines and during breaks.

Addesso was the hit of the game as she frolicked and kidded with players, giving tees a tug and the occasional rolling ball a gentle kick. The third grade teacher even got in a playful tussle with former student, Joseph Squillante over the basketball to the enjoyment of both the players and enthusiastic crowd. 

Savannah Rosario will be taking on the title roll in the upcoming Appleby School Drama Club production. "Annie Jr." is based on the popular, long-running comic strip featuring the lovable red-haired orphan and her dog, Sandy. It was adapted from the Tony-winning musical that premiered on Broadway in 1977.

The curtain will rise on "Annie Jr." on April 27, 28 and 29. Evening performances begin at 6:30 p.m. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee performance on April 29 in addition to the evening curtain. Students will put on a free performance for area seniors on April 26.