WARREN, NJ - When audiences packed the Performing Arts Center at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) March 30 to April 1 to see the school’s annual Spring Musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” they were seeing more than performances of student actors, singers and dancers on the stage and  hearing  more than student musicians in the orchestra pit.

They were also seeing an “interdisciplinary learning” experience that engaged more than 150 students, teachers, staff, parents, volunteers, and community supporters. According to school officials, the annual drama productions are being seen as vehicles to learn a whole host of skills.

An example of this evolution this year was a new special event, “Breakfast with Belle,” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, April 1, in the school’s media center. The event was held in anticipation of the Saturday Matinee performance of the musical.  The event was sold out, as were earlier-in-March similar special events at the Warren Township and Long Hill Township. Student actress Hannah Melillo made personal appearances as fully costumed and in-character Belle, to the delight of young children, who had pictures taken with her, and enjoyed various other typical Saturday Morning at the Library activities, such as face painting, craft-making and imagination building.

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Then, at the WHRHS Library on April 1, the cast of costumed characters who appeared at the event expanded, since the student actors were preparing to take to the stage for the show’s Saturday matinee. In addition to Belle, other characters appeared, including: “Beast,” portrayed by Sam Sinnott; the enchanted candlestick, “Lamiere,” portrayed by Jacob Lesser; the enchanted clock, “Cogsworth,” portrayed by Scott Rmankow; “Gaston,” portrayed by Will Johnson; and Enchanted Objects, “Knife” portrayed by Katie Napell, “Spoon,” portrayed by Amelia Stapperfenne, and “Fork,” portrayed by Claire Vickery.”

Children could have formal and informal portraits taken with the costumed characters.

In addition, members of the high school’s Culinary Club baked, created, prepared and assembled a smorgasbord of treats for the children and their guardians. High school students in the Art Department and student volunteers led the children in craft-making activities. Students also provided face painting, temporary tattooing and hair braiding. Space was provided for story time activities in the Media Center.

Learning Skills

The event was organized by the business manager of the Drama Department Theater Arts organization, Script and Cue -- WHRHS Business Teacher Dianne Krutz. She also engaged her business students in a variety of “real life” living learning business tasks required for the staging of Beauty and the Beast, or any school drama or musical. Among the items they covered were budgeting, business planning, marketing, gate receipts, ancillary merchandising, and other related applied business tasks.

“We always keep in mind that staging these plays and musicals is a living-learning inter-disciplinary opportunity for not only the actors, singers, dancers and musicians,” said Kurz.  “It is also a real-life learning opportunity for: Production designers; stage crews; directing; lighting and sound designers; applied arts such as face painting and make up; wardrobe and costume support; program and fundraising support; reception cooking and culinary support; set construction, and more.”

Rave Reviews

This production of Beauty and Beast also received standing ovations from the audiences.

Many in audiences said they were very impressed by the performances, including the sound quality, the diction of the actors and singers, the musical beds provided by the orchestra, the coordination of lighting and stage management, and the way that from top to bottom, the cast performed as a cohesive unit.

“It seems we say this every year,” said Director and WHRHS Theater Arts Teacher Douglas Eaton, “but we have a very talented group of students this year. They really got into their parts. They really brought their characters to life, and sang their songs as if they were truly telling their ‘tale as old as time’.”

More Than 150 Involved

The play was directed by WHRHS Drama Teacher Douglas Eaton, with musical direction provided by WHRHS Choral Music Director Angela DiIorio Bird, and Orchestral Direction provided by WHRHS Instrumental Music Director Paul McCullen. Choreograhy was provided by Melissa Markowich.

In addition to Melillo as Belle, the cast leads were: Sam Sinnott as Beast, Ben Allgor as A Selfish Prince, William Broder as Narrator, Allison Horvath as Old Beggar Woman/Enchantress, Suchir Govindarajan as Maurice, Will Johnson as Gaston, Emma Leary and Kayla Martins as Lefou 1 and Lefou 2, Jacob Lesser as Lumiere, Scott Romankow as Cogsworth, Kyra Anthony as Chip, Jackie Romankow as Mrs. Potts, Anchal Dhir as Babette, Rhiannon Barone as Wardrobe and Anthony Speros as Monsieur D’Arque.

Other students in the cast, playing as a group of “Silly Girls,” “Cronies,” “Enchanted Objects,” or “Villagers,” are: Mariella Zijdel, Logan Stiles, Michael Dumapit, Katie Napell, Kat Paterson, Angela Munoz, Adele Rotondo, Amy Holz, Claire Vickery, Dana Wasserman, Kira Leinwand, Jack Melillo, Giovanna DiSanto, Tea Kingley, Angelina Carrono, Sara Barrientos, Eliana Neuwirth, Amelia Stapperfenne, Allison Horvath, Kaelin Churchill, Francesca Infante-Meehan, Nicole Vila, Summer Stuart, Natasha Bird, Nicole Bell, Justin Horowitz, Avery Noerr, Emma Marszalek, Ariya Blow, Anjali Blow, Carly McManus, Spencer Acciarito, Emma Giordano, Sophia Blanchard, Ava Melillo, Christine Tanko, Matthew Oboh, Kevin Lynch and Sammya Yellamelli.

Playing in the orchestra were: Reed I, Cherlin Zhu; Reed II, Jeremy Cui and Sanja Subramanian; Reed III, John Kolibachuk; Bassoon, Elizabeth Baker; Trumpets, Carl Peterson, Matt Shaefer, and Elliott DeGuilo; Horns Taylor Hestvik, Ryan Branco and Ben Watkins; Trombone, Jack Horn; Tuba, Ethan Marmolejas; Violins, Carter Rosen, Nandini Yellamell, Alyanna Tam, Annabel Liao, Bolai Lin, Emma Golkin, Jack White, Jenny Lin, Manthan Naik, and Bernard Lin; Cellos, Spencer Shao, Daria Monti, and Kevin Ellis; Bass, Jason DePope; Percussion, Emilie Ricciardi, Craig Mandelbaum and Sholi Banerjee; and Keyboards, Zoe Golkin, Annabell Pu amd Bryan Boretz.

Chief Assistant Director was student Kathleen Stavole and Assistant Director was student Emily Snead. Caitlin Villarreal was Production Stage Manager.

Eaton was Set Designer. WHRHS Art teacher Kate Griffin was Scenic Artist. Gail DeCicco was Costume Designer. Chris Valenti was Lighting Designer. Rick Clark was Sound Designer. Jenna Leski was Lead Assistant Stage Manager and Mark Caamano was Assistant Stage Manager.

Valenti was Technical Director and Set CAD. Valtnei, Clack and Nick DiNizio worked on Video Projections and Lighting Effects.

Others working on the Production Staff were: Chief Carpenter, Nick DiNizio; Costumes, Melissa Vu; Costumes Crew, Brianna Caetano, Sophia Patti, Sarah Silva and Hannah Stevens; Prop Master, Mylan Dettling; Prop Crew, Elizabeth Chapleski, Rachel Krouk, Jessica Pearstein, Megan Petersen, Hannah Marszalek, and Thy Nguyen; Sound Mics, Mitchell Allen and Michael Maloney; Sound Effects, Krystyna Leski; Lighting, Christopher Oakes; Assistant Vocal manager, Christopher Barry; Spot Light, Timothe Iroudayassamy and Michael Wong; Hair and Makeup, Hollace Chase, Brianna Casas, Julia Celeste, Madelena Goffredo, Erin Scanlon and Collette Crocco; Flys, Emily Graf and Pat Dempsey; Running Crew, Arden Dettling, Portia Rowley, Kathleen O’Mullan, Danielle Keller, Adam Noble, Julia Celeste, Jennifer Stavole. Becca Dickerson, Neil Yang, Skylar Paltjon, Michelle Chavanne, Gillian Gilder Loesberg, and Ryan Presgraves; Tech on Deck , Alexander Martin; Ushers, Alison Wolf, Elizabeth Chapleski, Erin Bailey, Michael Wong, Joshua Hammer and Gillian Loesberg.

Photographer Amy Holz provided all headshots and group shots. Laura Zijdel made the program.

Script and Cur Business Manager is Dianne Krutz.


WHRHS CAPTIONS Interdisciplinary Learning for Beauty and the Beast


WHRHS PHOTOS Curtain Beauty and Beast

When audiences packed the Performing Arts Center at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) March 30 - April 1 to see the school’s annual Spring Musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” they were seeing the product of more than the performances of student actors, singers and dancers on the stage and student musicians in the orchestra pit, such as these actors taking a curtain call. They were also seeing an “interdisciplinary learning” experience that engaged more than 150 students, teachers, staff, parents, volunteers, and community supporters. According to school officials, the annual drama productions are being seen these days as a vehicle to enable a whole host of students to learn a whole host of skills.


WHRHS PHOTOS Crew Beauty and Beast

Scores of behind the scenes production staff, gather on stage for a group photo at the final dress rehearsal for the WHRHS Spring Musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” March 30 to April 1. The Production Staff includes students and staff involved in sound quality, lighting design, stage management, props, between-scene moving of scenery, set design, costume support, hair and make-up support, and a whole host of other tasks necessary for the successful production a high school musical. There are also other vital support tasks, including budgeting for the production, marketing strategies, set design, carpentry and painting, electrical and electronic support, community relations support. There are even ancillary functions such as reaching out to interested demographic audiences in the community, like Senior Citizens, sending district future students, and pre-school children.


WHRHS PHOTOS Orchestra Beauty and Beast

Orchestral Director and WHRHS Instrumental Teacher Paul McCullen, left, prepares to conduct the Orchestra for “Beauty and the Beast.” In the orchestra are some additional professionalmusicians, but most are WHRHS students. Some of the student musicians are students who have been selected for All State and All Regional orchestras and musical groups. Likewise, among the cast, both as leads and in the choruses, are students who have been selected for All State and All Regional choral groups.


WHRHS PHOTOS Beast and Belle

Portraying Beast in the WHRHS production of “Beauty and the Beast” is Senior Sam Sinnott of Millington, left, and portraying Belle is Senior Hannah Melillo, also of Millington. The cast leads were joined by other costumed and made-up “enchanted objects” cast members at a “Breakfast with Belle” special event on Saturday morning, April 1. Young children were thrilled to be able to have their photo taken with the “in character” high school thespians. Similar events were also held in the weeks before the play at local libraries.


WHRHS PHOTOS Lumiere Gaston Coggwrorth

Portraying “Enchanted Candlestick,” Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast” is Freshman Jacob Lesser, Portraying Gaston is Junior Will Johnson, and portraying Cogsworth is Freshman Scott Romankow, all of Gillette. They roamed among the children who attended the special event, “Breakfast with Belle,” on Saturday, April 1, at the WHRHS Medic Center.


WHRHS PHOTOS Knife Spoon Fork

Portraying the Enchanted Knife, Spoon and Fork in “Beauty and the Beast” are, from left, Senior Katie Napell of Warren Township, Senior Amelia Stapperfenne of Millington, and Sophomore Claire Vickery of Millington, respectively. Among other tasks, the enchanted tableware welcomed guests at the “Breakfast with Belle” special event, living one of the most popular song and dance production number in the musical, “Be Our Guest.”


WHRHS PHOTOS Culinary Club

At the “Breakfast with Belle” special event for children and their caregivers on Saturday, April 1, before the Saturday Afternoon matinee of “Beauty and the Beast,” the WHRHS Culinary Club organized, baked, displayed and served an array of cakes, breads, fruit and veggie hors d’oeuvres and treats. From left are: Freshman Janet Liu of Green Brook Township, Sophomore Tien Nguyn of Green Brook, Sophomore Victoria Tartivita of Stirling, Sophomore Rhea Kalyanpur of Green Brook, Freshman Kelly Chen of Watchung, Freshman Amber Wong, Senior Kinnary Shah of Warren and Junior Katie Morris of Stirling.


WHRHS PHOTOS Student Face Painters

At the “Breakfast with Belle” special event on April 1, WHRHS student artists and volunteers provided face painting, temporary tattoos, hair braiding, arts and craft activities, and more to help young children get into the festive spirit of meeting costumed characters from the WHRHS Spring Musical, “Beauty and the Beast.” Many later joined with Senior Citizens, and family groups at the musical’s annual Saturday Matinee performance. From left are: Senior Emily Graf of Green Brook Township; Senior Jordan Wilen of Warren Township; Senior Kathleen Stavole of Green Brook Township; and Senior Aditi Joshi of Warren Township. Stavole was also the Chief Assistant Director for the production. Graf was also one of two Flys on the Production Crew. Flys deal with the rigging systems for scenery, backdrops and curtains.