The Dawning of a New Era in OBEN Theater
It was a few minutes before curtain on the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Fine and Performing Arts Department’s spring musical production of “You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The director, Mr. Kerry Prep, was standing in the balcony with the tech crew. Cameron McKean and Maggie Ford, who were working the light board, asked Mr. Prep if he was nervous. He answered that he was not nervous, because the students in the cast were prepared.
Thanks to a level of professionalism in the planning and execution of the rehearsal schedule, this was arguably the best prepared cast in decades. Mr. Prep had the support of enthusiastic and hard working adults. OBHS Art Teacher Ms. Maria Randazzo put in countless hours assembling a stage crew that worked tirelessly during free periods and after school to paint and put together a colorful and vibrant set. OBHS Music Teacher, Mr. Matt Sisia formed and rehearsed a top notch pit band to supply the music. In the past, the pit band has been comprised of professional musicians hired to handle the score. This year’s pit band was made up of OBHS students with OBEN Music Teachers Ms. Meagan Finnerty and Mr. Michael Gianetta sitting in. Choreographer Mr. Jack Saleeby brought a fresh new approach to the dancing.
Many students took leadership roles in the production. None worked harder than Danielle DiMeo who was the Stage Manager assisted by Neal Mehta and Rebecca Keller. Ava Aschettino served as Assistant Director, while Claudia Paolucci and Kayla McKenna were Dance Captains. Kevin Hart assisted Mr. Tom Gould in handling the awesome responsibility of the sound.
When the lights came up on the stage, it was all in the hands of the students.
Fans of the OBHS Open Mic Nights are familiar with the beautiful singing of Sarah Conway. Sarah has a melancholy tone to her voice that makes her a wonderful balladeer. That tone was a perfect fit for the hapless character of Charlie Brown. Julia Tauter probably had the most lines as Lucy which she delivered flawlessly. Anabella Ballone showed versatility in playing Snoopy which required her to handle physical and spoken comedy, pantomime and lead singing. Kayla McKenna had an infectious energy and enthusiasm that she brought to the part of Sally Brown. Grace McKenna as Schroeder, showed the value of having had vocal coaching with her spot-on vocals. Christopher McKenna, who is already a seasoned actor in outside theatrical productions, stole many a heart with his winning smile and poise as Linus. Ava Aschettino displayed a real gift for pantomime in her role as Woodstock.
The supporting cast was perfectly in step and never missed a cue. They were Kyra Tischler, Kayleigh Crawford, Ali Martorella, Isabella Rosenthal, Kayla Cronin, Katherine Ruiz, Miriam Coor, Destini Gaeckler, Claudia Paolucci, Muskan Kumar and Arianna Wulffen.
Mr. Matthew Sisia led the impressive Pit Band featuring student and staff musicians Victoria Carchietta and Gigi Grady on Flute, Laura Angelone and Ashley Hazan on Clarinet, Ryan Obes on Tenor Sax, Emma Ingoglia and Kate Devereaux on French Horn, Joe Petrone and Michael Giannetta on Trumpet, Michael Biggiani on Trombone, Matt Jaronczyk on Euphonium, Matt DiCarali and Terrance Cameron on Percussion, and Meagan Finnerty on Piano. Michael Biggiani played the voice of the teacher with his Trombone.
The backbone of any theatrical production is the stage crew. Ms. Maria Randazzo led the crew through a smooth running production with Danielle DiMeo, Rebecca Keller, Neal Mehta, Julia Cutajar, Cheli Ann DeCarolis, Emily DeSalvo, Maggie Ford, Kevin Hart, Logan Iles, Daniel Juhasz, Kirkland Green-Knox, and Valentina LaRocca, Victoria Lattanzio, Elina Leandrou, Krista Marino, Cameron McKean, Kathryn Moore, Karina Paone, Jimmy Peitz, Matthew Peitz, and Jodi Yeh.
Mr. Prep said, “We were all single-mindedly focused on one goal; the successful production of a musical. We put our heads together, overcame obstacles in our path, took responsibility for our individual roles, and persevered to achieve success.”
On this foundation and the enormous talent of a very young cast, the future of theater in OB will impress and delight for years to come. Watch for the Vernon play on Friday, April 28 at 7 pm at Vernon when the newly formed Vernon Drama Club presents “The Lion King Jr.”
None of this would be possible without the leadership of Mr. Peter Rufa, the District Administration and the Board of Education and their continued belief in the value of the Arts in a well-rounded education.
Many thanks to Ms. Jill McKenna for these photos.
Many thanks to Ms. Laurie Kowalsky for these videos.