The following was written by Abigail Baker:
Given that the South Orange - Maplewood community is abundant in seasoned artists and practiced professionals, it is of little wonder that the district’s public schools reflect young, unique talent in an extensive array of mediums. Indeed, in the particularly active facet of theatre, Maplewood Middle School, South Orange Middle School, and Columbia High School each rehearse and perform a musical every year. These full-scale productions are dually an educational and artistic experience for the students as well as a staple of the school and district community.
South Orange Middle School’s musical is the classic Guys and Dolls, a timeless story of love and personal growth. The plot premise is a bet between perpetual gamblers Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit that ultimately leads to romantic entanglements with their respective love interests, Sarah Brown and Adelaide. Sky has only just met Sarah, and attempts to win her affection despite his gambling ways. Meanwhile, Nathan and Adelaide have been engaged for fourteen years, and have not yet married, as Adelaide bemoans in “Adelaide’s Lament”. Says director Elizabeth Harris, “Guys and Dolls is a great show with a lot of fun roles for boys and girls whether they are a singer, dancer, actor or combination.”
Maplewood Middle School will be performing Annie Get Your Gun, chronicling the story of Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter in the wild West. When Frank Butler, also a sharpshooter, alongside his manager and troupe arrive in Cincinnati to put on a show, excitement is widespread. By coincidence, Annie is in town and through a chain of circumstances competes against Frank in a sharpshooting competition, which she wins. Following her victory, she joins the touring show as an assistant. From there, the story takes off, spanning continents, following character triumphs and trip-ups, and telling the story of the romance between Annie and Frank, with classic musical numbers such as “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “You Can’t Get A Man with a Gun”.
At Columbia High School, this year’s selection is Legally Blonde The Musical, the story of the ever-bubbly Elle Woods. After romantic disappointment, Elle plunges into a new life and adventure at Harvard Law School, intent on reacquiring the heart of former paramour Warner. Peppered with ballads and up-tempo musical numbers alike, such as “Omigod You Guys”, “Harvard Variations”, “Serious”, and “Bend and Snap”, Legally Blonde The Musical is a both comedic and emotionally resonant tale.
With school just beginning, casts yet to be designated, sets to be constructed, scripts to be memorized, and dance steps to be learned, the selection and subsequent announcement of the annual musical selection is the avidly awaited beginning of a hard-working but fun few months for the students and community members involved. Keep an ear out for performances in late winter and spring!