SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Paw Paw, Michigan gets its neighborhood problems solved each week in the backyard of Edwina Spoonapple, a future advice columnist in need of a little guidance herself. Edwina and her cast of cohorts put on song and dance numbers to help solve issues troubling friends and neighbors. The unique show-within-a-show format makes for a delightfully different musical in "Dear Edwina Jr." presented by the Memorial Middle School Drama Club this week.
The energetic and talented cast lead by eighth grader Savanah Rosario as Edwina put on an entertaining show-within-a-show complete with refreshments and stage cleaning. Saturday's matinee performance was the final one of a three performance run at Spotswood High School. "Dear Edwina Jr. was directed by Spotswood High School English teacher Dominic Sposato and choreographed by former Memorial student Brittany Cohen. Memorial Middle School Band Director Christina Restine was the show's musical director and served as the conductor and piano player for the live orchestra that also included Barbara Santoro, William Macirowski and Dominic Palombi.
This year's musical choice was a bit different than past productions for the drama club who put on the very popular "High School Musical Jr." last fall.
"Dominic Sposato, SHS English teacher and our show's director and I really liked Dear Edwina Jr. because it had 30 feature roles," explained Restine. "It has always been my philosophy that we should feature as many of the cast members as possible and Dear Edwina Jr. was a perfect choice for that mission. The songs are very catchy and provided opportunities for cute dances which our choreographer, Brittany Cohen, was really excited about."
The show's numerous production numbers were indeed toe-tapping. "Hola, Lola" and "Put It In The Piggy" were two selections that were show stoppers. Each advice letter was sung instead of read providing the opportunity for ensemble members to showcase their talents. Ryan Legakis was a scene stealer as Ziggy as was Kayla Duffy as Periwinkle. In addition to Rosario's determined and sympathetic Edwina, Andrew Kim was endearing as the starstruck boy-next-door Scott Kunkle. A shout out also has to go to the dancing napkins, Cyanne Chan, Jessica Motard, Hannah Lesniak, Rosi Caron, Tabitha Devlin, Valerie Cicero and Olivia Bialoblocki who also did double duty as the adorably entertaining piggies.
Like a true advice columnist, all of "Dear Edwina Jr.'s" songs pack a musical meaning.
"The songs teach positive messages such as how to be polite, how to set a table and the importance of saving money," Restine said. "The overall theme, as Edwina sings at the end, is to stay true to yourself and do what you love. Since all of these messages come from middle school-aged characters, our students really connected with the show."
The complete cast included the following Memorial Middle School students: Ava Baez, Olivia Bialoblocki, Anastasia Bogutska, Andrew Capran, Rosie Caron, Cyanne Chan, Valerie Cicero, Rachel Cohen, Mandy Conrad, Christopher Cruz, Erica Dellaglio, Tabitha Devlin, Shawn Dollete, Kayla Duffy, Zachary Engstrom, Samantha Fink, Dani Garced, Gabby Gioffre, Dylan Hahner, Julie Hilse, Emily Judah, Andrew Kim, Ryan Legakis, Hannah Lesniak, Amber Michalowski, Bobby Mills, Jessica Motard, Evelyn Nabil, Aaliyah Napier, Brandon Rivera, Savanah Rosario, Sebastian Saracino, Dominic Shinouda, Colin Shornock, Brandon Snyder, Camryn Snyder and Samantha Zeron.
The backstage crew included Beanie Craig, Molly Fink, Stacy He, Ashley Judah, Antonio La Rocca, Mark Lesniak and Natalie Melofchik. The Spotswood High School backstage crew included Jenna Cia, Chloe Donelan, Delaney Yaniak, Gabriela Zeron and Jordana Zeron.
"This is the first show in my seven years working with the Drama Club that I did not direct," Restine added. "So this year I was able to focus just on the music portion of the show. Mr. Sposato came on board as our producer last year and we worked over the summer to reorganize the behind-the-scenes structure for him to be the director. This new division has allowed the blocking and music to be better than it was when I was working on it alone and I feel incredibly grateful to Mr. Sposato for his skill and teamwork to make Dear Edwina Jr. a success."