RANDOLPH, NJ- Over the past decade or so, Randolph's Middle School has earned itself a reputation for putting on fantastic performances for their Spring Musical, in what has become an RMS “year-end” highlight for all involved.
The spring musical production has been run by social studies teacher Rich Sackerman for the past 12 years, and has become one of the most popular activities in the school. Every October, the show auditions draw 250 to 300 students to try out for a cast of 85 and a stage crew of around 25.
“I've made so many memories and friends being part of the RMS productions,” said eighth grader Joey Dunne, who played Captain Von Trapp. “I would highly recommend any middle schooler who might be thinking of trying out to give it a shot."
One of the biggest factors that differentiate a Sackerman production from the typical run of the mill middle school play is the amount of involvement secondary and background characters have in his shows.
“Back in the early years, I spent the majority of my time focusing on the central cast, the main players as it were,” said Sackerman. “It was about year five, with Beauty and the Beast, when I started to try to more fully develop the ensemble players to give each kid their unique opportunity to shine. Each kid deserves their moment and I try to deliver that for them.”
While most audience members typically know who the 3-4 main parts are in each show simply by the character names and roles, after seeing one of Sackerman's shows, viewers could formulate an argument for as many as 10-12 characters who actually had the “Lead” role.
In addition, background characters and ensemble members are given extra dialog lines, short solos in the during most of the musical numbers, and many other bit parts that put them into the forefront of the show. By doing this, every cast member is more involved, and knows that they each play an important role in making the show a success no matter what their part is.
“I am so proud of the cast this year, as this was a very difficult show and we spent the majority of rehearsal season in the cafeteria due to construction in the theater,” said Sackerman. Following the poise of my 8th graders, like Maria Clemente and Gianna Alessandra ( Student Play Captains ) this group pulled off all of my goals.”
Cast members also expressed satisfaction at how their nearly five months of hard work paid dividends come show time.
“After performing in the cast of Grease last year, I wasn’t sure how amazing this years’ cast could be, but there was so much talent it was insane,” said Grace Bua, who played Maria. “It was difficult, but in the end it was extremely rewarding, and I wouldn’t change the experience for anything in the world.”
The costumes, designed by Helen Smith and Nan Holder, outdid themselves as they do every year. With radiant colors and fine details from the headdress right down to the shoes, they helped to make some of the big dance numbers a dazzling experience to watch.
The student Dance Captains, Kate Freund and Katelyn Glory, helped lead and choreograph the dance numbers, while students Nick Zelley and Rebecca Olive, assisted by Brittany Nordman, managed the stage crew.
The show was the first major event in the re-designed, newly renovated RMS Performing Arts Center.
“The new RMS Performing Arts Center is beautiful,” said Sackerman “Dr. Copeland (RMS Principal), the Board of Education and the designers did a fabulous job giving our kids a venue that they can be proud of.”
The background set, designed by teacher Luke Mason, changed often throughout the show, and created an equally important visual aesthetic that brought authenticity to the performance, while Jill Pariseau and Krysta Hyziak did the overall show choreography.
“Being part of the play was an amazing experience,” said EJ Gorman, who played Uncle Max. I met many new friends, and getting the part that I did was even better. I loved every minute of it; it’s something that I will never forget.”
Gorman's sentiments are heard from cast members on a regular basis, year after year, and were echoed by Dunne.
“This year was great to finish off my middle school acting career with an all-time classic show like The Sound of Music and to be the first ever show in the brand new PAC,” said Dunne. “The whole cast and crew stepped up to the challenge of portraying well known and loved characters. We knocked it out of the park based on the audience response.“