Tell, Share, and Sell: Summit H.S. 'Sweeney Todd' Cast Relays Expertise to Elementary Students

Summit High School students, and "Sweeney Todd" cast members, Claire Fitzpatrick and Matthew McGinn teach the elementary students a dance routine. Credits: Nicholas Della Sala
From left, Kaylie DeGennaro, Freya TempleWeed and Ruby Wright “strike a pose” on stage. Credits: Rebecca Michaloupolos
Summit High School Drama Club officers created mock audition scenarios for the elementary school students. The workshop was organized by SHS Drama Club President Kelly Reynolds.  From left, Nick Della Sala, Claire Fitzpatrick, Julia Heckelman, Catie Floegel, and Matthew McGinn. Credits: Jamie Heckelman
Elementary school students who attended the free Theatre Workshop brought non-perishable food items for “Mrs. Lovett’s Pantry,” which will be donated to the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank, located in Summit. Credits: Nicholas Della Sala
Credits: File photo

SUMMIT, NJ - As part of Summit High School's (SHS) March 4-7 spring production of Stephen Sondheim’s "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," cast members recently lead a free, two-hour Theatre Workshop for third-fifth grade students. 

The evening opened with a Mock Audition panel, where the SHS students acted out four different audition scenarios: someone who is fearful; someone who is unprepared; someone who does not follow directions; and, finally, someone who exemplifies a perfect audition.

“Don’t let nerves take over during an audition,” senior Kelly Reynolds, SHS Drama Club president, told the group of nearly 60 elementary students. Reynolds selected the material for the event and organized the high school students. “Be prepared both mentally and physically,” she added. “Know your material backward and forward.”

“Research your character,” said junior Nick Della Sala, publicist for the Drama Club. “Know which character you are auditioning for and memorize your lines so that you can just be your character during an audition.”

“Know your character’s objective -- or goal -- in a scene,” added junior Claire Fitzpatrick, Drama Club treasurer.

The younger students were given specific advice on how to dress for an audition. Specifically, girls should wear a skirt or dress; boys should wear nice pants and a collared shirt; hair should be clean and away from your face. Senior Matthew McGinn offered one more crucial piece of advice before the groups then rotated through workshops specific to Dancing, Acting and Singing. “Remember to Be Nice” said McGinn, secretary of the Drama Club.

Selling the Song

The key to getting a good sound when singing is warming up both physically and vocally, said senior Julia Heckelman and drama club vice president. “Singing is about getting your body and voice together as one,” she explained. She led the children through exercises including the “Mommy Made Me Mash My M&M’s” vocal warm-up as well as the Ragdoll and Shakedown physical warm-ups. 
Once that concluded, she demonstrated how to bring shoulders up -- but remain relaxed at the same time -- and how to elevate your chest and hold the stomach to get the best vocal performance. “Envision your character and sell the story,” she advised before the children sang Little Red Riding Hood’s portion of the prologue from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Telling the Story 

Working from the "Into the Woods" script, the younger students rehearsed a scene between Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. First they moved around the space, envisioning themselves as the Wolf chasing Little Red. Then, two-at-a-time, they performed a read-through from a scene between the two Sondheim characters. “Memorizing lines ahead of time makes it easier to act,” shared junior Catie Floegel, Drama Club dionysus . “You don’t want to just say the lines. You want to act them.”

Reynolds added that during an audition, it is important to bring physicality to the performance, so that the audience not only hears the character but also sees the character. Diction is important, as well as standing straight, grounded and focused. “Bite into every word,” summarized Jackson Levine, a student at Washington Elementary School.

Sharing the Experience

During the Dance portion of the evening, the high school students taught the elementary school children the choreography for a musical number from "Into the Woods". The high school students stressed that there are additional factors beyond the dance moves themselves that go into making the choreography successful. Feeling the words of the song is just as important as the dance moves. “Dancing is important,” said junior Claire Fitzpatrick, “But what’s really important is smiling and having a good time.”

Whether dancing, singing or acting, one thing remains most important. “Tell the story,” advised Anne Poyner, SHS Drama teacher and Director of Sweeney Todd. “Share the experience with the audience. But you have to have a good time first.”

In conjunction with the Summit High School spring musical, the cast and crew organized a district-wide food drive to help raise awareness of the hunger that exists in our own community. “Help Fight Hunger” collection boxes are located in each of the district’s five elementary schools, Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS) and SHS.

The elementary school students who attended the free SHS Theatre Workshop were asked to bring non-perishable food items to help stock “Mrs. Lovett’s Pantry.” All food items are being donated to the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank, helping Summit families in need.

Sweeney Todd ticket holders are encouraged to bring food donations to the high school when they attend the production the first week of March. Sweeney Todd runs March 4-5  at 6 p.m., and March 6-7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are priced at $13 for students/seniors, $16 for adults, and can be purchased with a credit card. at

For those wishing to pay with cash or check only, In-person ticket sales will be available during the high school lunch Tuesday-Friday, March 3-6; at the LCJSMS lunch Wednesday and Thursday, March 4-5, or at the show each night one hour preceding curtain time.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Tue, February 20, 10:00 AM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

Mother Goose

Arts & Entertainment Community Calendar Education


Tue, February 20, 10:00 AM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

Mother Goose

Arts & Entertainment Community Calendar Education


Tue, February 20, 7:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

Family STEAM Club

Arts & Entertainment Community Calendar Education

Summit Fire Department Blotter

12/16/17 7:42 am     FD dispatched to DE FOREST AVENUE and MAPLE STREET for a strong odor of natural gas in area. On arrival found an outside odor of natural gas. PSEG was requested and responded to the scene. Readings of 7% natural gas were found in the manholes in the center of the intersection. CVS was checked and zero readings for natural gas were found. Summit FD was released ...

Summit Police Blotter

February 12, 2018

2/1 - At 0955 hours a report was taken for a theft of a street sign. The unlawful incident occurred between an unknown time frame on Pine Grove Avenue. Value of the street sign was not immediately available at the time of the report.

2/5 - Roberto C. Noel-Berman, 23, of Summit was arrested and charged with possession of CDS. Mr. Noel-Berman was released with a pending court date.

2/5 - ...

Assistance Programs Available for JCP&L Customers to Help with Winter Heating Bills

February 16, 2018

As the cold weather continues, financial assistance programs are available for Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) customers who need help with winter heating bills.

Assistance to qualifying JCP&L customers is available through the Lifeline, Universal Service Fund (USF), Weatherization, Payment Assistance for Gas and Electric (PAGE) and New Jersey SHARES programs.

Lifeline ...

Video: Point View's Deitze Tell CNBC Fed is 'On Track' for March Rate Hike

Point View Wealth Management's Founder, President and Chief Investment Strategist, David Dietze, live on CNBC on how to position your portfolio despite more volatility:

For nearly 25 years, Point View Wealth Management, Inc. has been working with families in Summit and beyond, providing customized portfolio management services and comprehensive ...

Doing Well While Doing Good

The new tax law is predicted to reduce significantly the number of taxpayers who itemize deductions.  That has some concerned about charitable giving. There are ways for taxpayers who do not itemize deductions to give to charity and still receive some tax benefits.

Give from your IRA. Those aged 70-1/2 or older, who must take required minimum distributions from retirement accounts, can ...


AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link:

Let the Games Begin

I am truly awed by the Olympics.  Watching these superb young athletes on TV inspires me to renew my membership to the gym and pursue my lifelong dream of taking home the gold.  


The problem is that in my deluded head, I can see actually see myself standing atop the podium.  I am wrapped in a puffy designer ski coat with a huge piece of bling slung around my neck ...

Movies! Movies! Movies! - Three Ways to Enjoy Movies

Most people who use the Summit Free Public Library are familiar with our video collection: thousands of DVDs and nearly 800 BluRays -- and growing!

In addition to recent box-office hits and Hollywood classics, we have foreign films, anime, and musical performances from Aida to ZZ Top. Binge-watch a must-see TV series, discover a new one, or introduce your kids to your childhood ...