WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield High School Theater Department will spook audiences with its spring musical, adapted from Stephen King’s 1974 novel “Carrie,” March 16, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. The show is dedicated to the memory of Terry DiFalco, a WHS freshman and member of the cast who died last week.
“While the Westfield High School Theater Department is struggling with the loss the of its member and friend Terry DiFalco, the cast and crew have decided to continue forward with the production in honor and memory of Terry,” Director Daniel Devlin said.
The musical tells the story of high school outcast Carrie White (Emma Stern), a girl with supernatural abilities who is relentlessly bullied by classmates. Carrie is harassed by the stereotypical gaggle of mean girls (Abby Rothenberg, Catherine Barry, Lucy Ritter), especially by the “queen bee” Chris (Lauren Singer), who does everything in her power to make Carrie’s life miserable. Though Carrie gains support and sympathy from her gym teacher Miss Gardner (Emma Shakal), popular girl Sue (Nicole Player) and Sue’s boyfriend Tommy (Jonathan Saminski), Carrie’s problems go far beyond the school walls. She lives with her extremely religious and overbearing mother (Kimberly Zimmermann), who is just as harmful to Carrie’s psyche as her abusive classmates.
“The show revolves around bullying and the consequences of bullying,” Player said. “It reflects what really is going on in our present-day society at school and beyond. In stores, in movie theaters, bullying is everywhere. It's important for us to reflect that and to really make the people sitting in the audience realize that.”
With the theme centered around that sensitive topic, many cast members have found themselves going way beyond their comfort zones.
“The ultimate message of the show is: ‘What does it cost to be kind?’” Stern said. “For me as a person embracing this role, I had to think a lot about who are the Carries of our own school, which was hard at first. I had to think about how it feels to walk into a room and know that everyone in there hates you.”
Amid the daring nature of the story, the musical’s cast and crew have recently been facing an entirely different challenge: the loss of their friend and castmate. Though canceling or postponing the show became possibilities in response to the tragedy, ultimately the cast and crew made the decision to move forward with the original dates.
“It was a long and difficult discussion to have,” Music Director and WHS Chorus teacher John Brzozowski said. “We all talked about it and I’m not surprised students want to continue with the show. They want to do it for Terry, and I think that’s probably what she would want us to do, too.”
As they continue through this trying time, the WHS Theater Department has the entire school cheering them on.
“Our students have worked very hard at preparing for the musical and I'm happy to see it still go on not just for them, but for the whole WHS community,” Principal Derrick Nelson said. “I believe continuing the show allows our students, even those in the audience, to be a part of something that helps to honor Terry in a way that was dear and special to her.”
And while the cast will still be struggling with the loss of their classmate, DiFalco will nonetheless have a strong presence in the production.
“Paying tribute to her, being patient and having time to process what happened is important,” Brzozowski said. “We needed to be together this week. It was hard to even talk about the show because no one wanted to think about it, it seemed so secondary. But the show was imminent, and we decided to move forward and do the best that we could do given the circumstances, and do it all for Terry.”
Tickets are $14 each and are on sale at whstd.booktix.com. Advance purchase is recommended. Any tickets not sold in advance will be available at the door. Tickets are reserved seating. All performances will be held in the auditorium of Westfield High School, located at 550 Dorian Road.
Samantha Della Fera is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.