Nancy Sasso Janis
John G. Gilmartin School in Waterbury has managed in their short existence to present five annual musical productions. This year they brought back the first show that began it all in 2011, 'Schoolhouse Rock Live, Jr.' The elementary school's principal Donald R. Burzler, Ph.D expressed his heartfelt appreciation in the program to the adults who worked with this talented cast of students and also provided the very enthusiastic preshow announcements. (He accepted a cameo role as a bandit as well.) A handful of the oldest students had appeared in that first production of SHR and must have enjoyed singing the catchy tunes once again.
Gilmartin faculty member Emily Summa played the role of Teach, a young teacher facing her first day of school. The young actors acted out the learning jingles that used to appear between television cartoons on Saturday mornings. Dressed in colorful tees, their own jeans and beads, they danced and sang their way through the parts of speech, the magical three, the circulatory system, the solar system and American history. It was all very energetic and brought back wonderful memories of the production in which I appeared as the beginning teacher at another school with the same talented director, David Gardino.
Ms. Summa did a great job as the nervous teacher. Marta Betancourt took the solos on "A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing," "Elbow Room," and the finale "Interjections" and did well on all of them. Nirvana Samaroo had a duet with Jacyntha Adouko on "Unpack your Adjectives" and Ms. Adouko teamed up with Jasmine Platero on "Great American Melting Pot." Ms. Platero told us about "Interplanet Janet" backed by the ensemble holding the solar system and Janet played by Catriona Solomita. Romeo Burgos led "Conjunction Junction" and Eugene Normand was a riot as the professor in the charming "Do the Circulation."
Yogi Bear himself was the "hairy, scary" bear on wooden blocks. A large alphabet block opened to reveal (I'm Just a) "Bill" and another had kids in hats pop out of it during "The Preamble" sung by Ms. Samaroo. The number props for "Three" and conjunction props for "hooking up words and phrases and clauses" were great, but the planets and stars for "Janet" were even better.
The smallish stage was backed with video stills of the classic SHR characters, except during "Melting Pot." This number featured photos of relatives of the students labeled with their country of origin; many projections caused a buzz of recognition through the audience. The finale was followed by a long slide show of rehearsal photos done by a parent that was a very nice touch.
Mr. Gardino told me that this cast of students was a pleasure to work with throughout the rehearsal process. Marcia Schultz did the charming choreography and Catherine E. Dwyer served as Musical Director. Rosalie Veneziano provided technical support and Matt Kershaw was technical director. John Orzechowski (who had a bandit cameo) was the rehearsal assistant and Nancy Cocchiola supervised the costumes. Dedicated parents helped out with promotion, the program and concessions.
Congratulations to the Gilmartin students, staff and volunteers that brought another fun show to this young Waterbury school.