WARREN, NJ - Students and teachers at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) demonstrated their performance skills and entertainment savvy, while raising funds for Project A.L.S. (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), at a Talent Show, Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the school’s Performing Arts Center (PAC).

Some 16 acts were presented for the enjoyment of the audience, including solo and group performances of song, dance, musicianship, and poetry. Three of the acts were awarded prizes in the talent show competition at the event.

First prize went to Peri Martins of Warren Township, who sang “Rise Up,” by Andra Day, and accompanied herself on piano. Second prize went to Eliana Neuwirth of Warren Township, who sang, “Almost Lover,” by Fine Frenzy. Third Prize went to Isabella Zhou of Warren Township, who performed a Chinese Dance to the music of the number titled, “Incense.”

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According to the program, the Talent Show was presented, “In loving memory of Tom Shea (1968-2012) and Jenifer Estess (1963-2003).” Shea is the late brother of WHRHS English Teacher Laura Goodson, who died from A.L.S.

Two summers ago, WHRHS students read, as part of a summer reading assignment, ““Tales from the Bed: A Memoir,” by the late Jenifer Estess, as told to her sister, Valerie Estess. The work of non-fiction was about Jenifer Estess’ battle with ALS, often also referred to as Lou Gehrig Disease. In addition, several representatives from Project ALS, including Jenifer’s sisters, Valerie and Meredith Estess, spoke to assemblies of WHRHS students. WHRHS student government leaders have held several fundraising events in the last couple of years, such as this year’s and previous years’ Talent Shows.

“Since its inception, Project ALS has advanced ALS research, accelerating the testing of potential drugs, establishing the world’s first and only privately funded stem cell laboratory and developing the first laboratory models of ALS,” according to published Project ALS literature. “We have brought together the top stem cell biologists, geneticists, motor neuron experts and ALS neurologists to work on ALS and related diseases—transforming the field. In 17 years, Project ALS has raised over $75 million, directing between 80-93 percent annually to research programs.”

One of the highlights of the Talent Show was an ensemble performance of “The Room Where It Happened,” from the current award-winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” Among the performers were WHRHS History teachers Rebecca Brown, Sean New, Ken Karnas and Greg O’Reilly.

Students in the ensemble include Adele Rotondo, Jack Melillo, Suchir Govindarajan, Hannah Melillo, Kyra Anthony, Claire Vickery, Matt Oboh, Maddy Goffredo, Elisabeh Russo, Grace Shanahan, Julianne Lin, Francesca Meehan, Stephanie Moreno and Sarah Kelly.

In a separate performance, Dana Wasserman and Summer Stuart sang another song from Hamilton, “Dear Theodosia.”

Several singers offered solo singing performances, including: Colton Berry, “I Wonder as I Wander,” by John Jacob Niles; Sarah Kelly, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” by Bonnie Rait; and Michael Dumapit, “In Your Atmosphere,” by John Mayer.

Several bands performed, including “Tank,” comprised of Alex Overzat from WHRHS, and his friends from other schools, Nick Scafuto, and Kerry and Thomas Stranick of Bridgewater-Raritan High School, and Ben Boxer of Livingston High School. They did “Runaway,” by Bon Jovi.

WHRHS student band “No Fugazi,” performed “Waiting on the World to Change,” by John Mayer. Band members of No Fugazi are: David Kim, Natalie Kim, Eddie Cai, Ben Kozakowski, and Matt Renzo. The student band, “Wah!”, featuring Will Johnson, Will Broder and Anthony Speros, performed “Careless Whisper,” by George Michael and Wham!, while Anthony Speros also contributed a solo vocal and guitar performance on, “Phunkdified,” by Justin King.

The Piano/Violin/Cello Trio, featuring students Minhee Han, Brian Zeng and Kevin Lu, played the musical composition, “One Summer’s Day.”

Student Hannah Melillo joined a trio of The Teachers Band, comprised of English teachers, Kristin Mannion, Michael Porter, and Ira Horowitz, to create three-part harmonies on “White Winter Hymnal,” by Fleet Foxes. The Teachers Band trio closed out the Talent Show with “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen.

Mehu Saju read an original poem. Spencer Acciarito offered an original comedy stand up routine.


WHRHS PHOTOS The Room Where It Happened

One of the highlights of the Talent Show was a performance by the above ensemble of students and teachers of the number, “The Room Where It Happened,” from the current award-winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” Among the performers were four WHRHS History teachers. 


WHRHS PHOTOS Careless Whisper

The band, “Wah!,” a trio of students, from left, Will Johnson of Gillette, Will Broder of Warren Township, and Anthony Speros of Stirling, played, “Careless Whisper,” by George Michael and “Wham!,” at the WHRHS PAC, Wednesday, Jan. 11.



The Piano/Violin/Cello Trio, featuring, from left, Kevin Lu of Warren Township on Cello, Minhee Han of Green Brook Township on piano, and Brian Zeng of Warren Township on violin played “One Summer Day,” at the Talent Show.



Student band, “No Fugazi,” from left, Natalie Kim of Warren Township, Eddie Cai of Watchung, David Kim of Warren Township, Owen DiDonna of Millington, who is a WHRHS graduate now a freshman at Towson University, Towson, Md., Ben Kozakowski of Green Brook Township, and Matt Renzo of Warren Township, performed “Waiting on the World To Change,” by John Mayer at the Talent Show.


WHRHS PHOTOS The Teachers Band Plus One

The Teachers Band, featuring, from left, English teachers Ira Horowitz on lead electric guitar, Michael Porter on vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar, and Kristin Mannion on vocals, welcome guest singer, student Hannah Melillo of Millington, who helped create three-part harmonies on the song, “White Winter Hymnal,” by Fleet Foxes. Then, The Teachers Band sang, “You’re My best Friend,” by Queen to close the Talent Show.



Peri Martins of Warren Township, who sang “Rise Up,” by Andra Day, and accompanied herself on piano, won first prize atthe Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) Talent Show, Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the school’s Performing Arts Center (PAC). The Talent Show raised funds for Project A.L.S. (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).


WHRHS PHOTOS Eliana Neuwirth

Eliana Neuwirth of Warren Township sang “Almost Lover,” by Fine Frenzy, at the WHRHS Talent Show. She won Second Prize.

WHRHS PHOTOS Isabella Zhou


Isabella Zhou of Warren Township performed a Chinese dance titled “Incense,” at the WHRHS Talent Show, on Wednesday, Jan. 11. She was awarded Third Prize in the competition part of the Talent Show.