SOUTH PLAINFIELD -  Holy Savior Academy’s Drama Club transformed the school's auditorium into a magical Neverland, where everyone believes in fairies and growing up is optional, for their Spring performance of “Peter Pan.”  The play took place on the evenings of Thursday, May 2nd and Friday, May 3rd, with a matinee performance for the school children on May 3rd. 

“We had an amazing time over this past week,” said Susan Loughlin, Holy Savior Academy Music Director.  “Each time they performed the show, the students got better!  Seeing how much each of them has grown as performers makes the whole experience worthwhile.”

Holy Savior Academy’s Drama Club has become the most popular extra curricular activity in the school, drawing almost half of the 170 students enrolled in Holy Savior.  Students can join the drama program as early as third grade.  As they develop their talents, students in the older grades have the opportunity to be considered for induction into the International Thespian Society.

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“The school has a really good drama program,” said Parent Maridza Bermontiz.  “My daughter played Peter Pan and she just loves the drama program and the school.  The kids did really great.  I’m so thankful for the teachers, Mrs. Woodburn and everyone at the school who really help make a production like this possible.”

“I thought it was a great performance,” said Parent Peter Katsingris.  “My son played Michael Darling.  He looked great up there on stage in his pajamas!   I’m very proud of the students and all of the hard work they put in for the past few months.  It was just incredible!”

Holy Savior Principal Carol Woodburn addressed the audience before the play began.  Woodburn, who is retiring at the end of this school year, was presented with the gift of a flowering plant and hugs by the children for her support of the school’s Performing Arts throughout her time as principal.

“I want to welcome all of you to our Holy Savior Academy and Drama Club’s production of ‘Peter Pan,’”  said Woodburn. “The children, Mrs. Loughlin and all of her assistants have been working diligently.  The children are very excited.  They’re ready, we are too!  So thank you and enjoy the show.”  

The cast gathered onstage as the magical story of the adventurous Peter Pan, played by seventh grader Marissa Nieves, unfolded.  

“I had jitters, but it was really exciting to see everything come together,” said Nieves.  “Everyone worked so hard.  Even the little kids did so well.  It was amazing to have the audience there.  They laughed and they clapped.  It was amazing!” 

“My favorite part of it was when I saw the students beginning to relax and really have fun at the performances,” said Laughlin.  “That took it to another whole level.”

The main cast of “Peter Pan” included: Marissa Nieves (Peter Pan), Ava Waldron (Wendy), Max Corry (John), James Katsingris (Michael), Kayla Robertson (Mrs. Darling), Nicklaus Nuzzo (Mr. Darling), Rachel DeMesa (Liza), Asia Davis (Nana) and Gianna Calora (Tinker Bell).

“I’m very much excited about playing John,” said Sixth Grade Student Max Corry. “It was a little hard to learn all the lines, mostly the song parts, because there was a lot of going back and forth with each character.”  

“I play Wendy, a little girl,” said Ava Waldron, seventh grader.  “Peter Pan comes into our room.  I sew on his shadow.  Then we go flying off to Neverland and meet all of his friends and have a good time.” 

After Peter led the children to Neverland, where they met his band of friends and the story escalates.  

Peter’s ill-behaved, fun-loving companions in Neverland, the Lost Boys, included: Markus Ubengen (Nibs), Ashley Mont (Slightly), Emma Figueiredo (Curly), Adela Truong (Twin 1), Raizel Chioco (Twin 2), Steffen Heittiarachchi (Toddles) and Lost Boys - Rachel De Mesa, Gianna Calora, Kiara Pilamunga, Juliann Zrno, Brandon Johnson, Ryann Nicholson, Camryn Nicholson, Amalya Mont and Eden Anderson.

“Eventually, we meet the pirates,” said Waldron.  “And we defeat Captain Hook and we all live happily ever after!”

The wily band of pirates, led by the infamous Hook, captivated the audience with antics, dance routines and humorous banter.  The group included: Nicklaus Nuzzo (Captain Hook), Dominick Nuzzo (Smee), Jesse Abplanalp (Noodler), Miguel Velarde-Marania (Jukes), Matthew Robertson (Starkey), Anthony Campora (Cecco) and Pirates Christian Johnson, Jayden Johnson and Justin Fingal. 

Also in Neverland were the Brave Girls.  The fun loving and whimsical, yet strong and brave group of girls included: Madeline Atkins (Tiger Lily), Amanda Waldron (Small Brave Girls), Sharis Porter, Katherine Beauzile (Brave Girl 1), Gianna Petriello (Brave Girl 2) as well as Brave Girls - Ava Aneses, Alexa DeMesa, Lyanna Fisher,  Annabelle Johnson, Lalla Payne, Allegra Johnson, Destiny Allsbrooks, Ciara Rice, Braelyn Skok, Cadance Skok and Julia Adenau.

“It’s amazing how it all came together!” said Ava Aneses, fifth grade student.

“These kids are so talented,” said Parent Annemarie Aneses. “I especially loved the Brave Girls dance.”

With the help of Peter and the Crocodile, played by Joanna Marzan, the children were saved.  The childhood tale evoked nostalgic memories for both the audience and performers.  

“I love this play,” said Eight Grade Student Nicklaus Nuzzo, who played Captain Hook. “I grew up with this story, so me being able to play one of the greatest villains of all time, it’s kind of fun!   I was really excited when I got the part because this was one of the only parts that I wanted and the play has really come together.”

Many of the students made their own costumes with the assistance of their parents.  Adding leaves, feathers and beads, the creative costumes helped bring the mystical land to life.

“I played Tiger Lily,” said Seventh Grader Madeline Atkins.  “My mom and I made this whole costume.  The play really went well.  We all worked hard and it’s been so much fun.”  

The technical aspects of the production required a dedicated group to handle everything behind-the-scenes from the scenary and props to the sound system.  The crew included: Adrien Ortega (Stage Manager), Kayla Robertson (Director’s Assistant, Sound and Microphones), Gianna Peteriello (Sound), Michael Robitaille (Lighting).  Scenary was done by Sukhraj Goreya, Marvin Mont and Matthew Lowe.  Props were managed by Anothony Campora and Michael Robitaille.

Coordinating the cast and crew of over the sixty student undertaking required a team of devoted staff and volunteers.  Eva Tripodi is Holy Savior's Enrichment Teacher and was the Technical Director of the play.  

“I am so incredibly proud of our students’ performance,” said Tripodi.  “They gave 110%.  I can't wait to work with them again in next year's shows!”

To simulate flying, dance was incorporated into the performance.   Holy Savior Academy Teacher Daneile Micale worked with the children on their dance routines.

“I loved the dancing,” said Woodburn.  “Mrs. Micale helped with the choreography.  They decided to incorporate dance as the flying.” 

“My favorite part of the play is the ‘Ugh-A -Wug' routine because it’s really fun to do the entire ‘Ugh-A -Wug' dance with all of the energy and all of the costumes,” said Waldron.  “It’s really fun.”

Since the auditions in January, the children have been working diligently and included an extensive playlist of songs.

“I play Michael Darling, one of the three siblings,” said James Katsingris, fifth grader.  “This play has taken a lot of work to get ready for.  We all did really well.  The teachers have put in a lot of time, mostly every hour of the afternoon.”

Among the many songs the children had to master were the well known, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” and “Neverland.” 

“Our Music Director, Sue Loughlin, is just phenomenal,” said Woodburn.  “She does it all.  She teaches music, she leads the drama program.  She directs chimes and choir.  She was also a concert pianist and plays beautifully.  She is a wonderful lady.”

As the students took their bows amidst the applause, bouquets of flowers were given to the young stars and the teachers who have dedicated months to preparing for the performance.

“I just wanted to let the students know how very proud I am of each and every one of you,” said Woodburn to the audience.  “I would like to at this time thank all of the people who made this possible - all of the children and their hard work and Mrs. Tripodi, Mrs. Micale, and our leader and director and the heart of the program, Miss Susan Loughlin, who works tirelessly with our program.  The children just shine under her direction.”  

Cradling the huge bundle of flowers given to her moments before, Loughlin made her way to the podium.

“I would just like to say on behalf of Mrs. Micale, Mrs. Tripodi, and myself how very proud I am of each and every one of these students,” said Loughlin to the audience and students.  “Thank you for allowing your children to participate in the program.  I know it took a lot of sacrifice on your part to get them here for all of the rehearsals.  They worked so very very hard and it’s been a real pleasure.”

Excited children met their family members in the audience for photos and congratulations and everyone left with the magic of Peter Pan in the hearts.

“The students are marvelous,” said Woodburn.  “I loved the humor.  I just loved it.  Everyone did phenomenal job.”  

“They are a dedicated group,” said Loughlin.  “The amount of time that they have spent rehearsing speaks volumes about how much they enjoy and benefit from the program.” 

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