Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fantusical! Enthusical! Wow-zeusical!
Seussical The Musical In Malverne, New York

Imagine you're going to see a high school musical. No, not the movie by that name, just an actual local high school musical. What are your expectations? Maybe some occasional highlights amidst a mostly below-par performance? Some laughs, some obvious talent sprinkled in, but still just a local show with local talent, so probably nothing above and beyond stellar. I mean they can still be good shows, just pretty much worth the $9 or $10 admission you paid, right?

Well this past week, I witnessed a definite contradiction to the above rule. Malverne High School put on what can only be described as an above awesome production of Seussical The Musical. That's right, Malverne. You know, the quaint Long Island town whose cute main street can be explored in under 15 minutes? The one that local residents--with affection of course--call "Mayberry" and "Norman Rockwellville". Yes, that Malverne put on a really, really great show that would absolutely compare to the best Off-Broadway productions you've ever seen. And it included at least six actors (Zachary St. John, Samantha Henry, Ashanti Graham, Francina Smith, Rayven Mason and Jesse Gillespie) who I believe are true stars, some even destined to make it to Broadway! That’s not to say others won’t too. Through hard work and discipline, self-confidence and joy, anything is possible! Honorable mentions too go to Mr. and Mrs. Mayor played by Will Avelar and Sarah St. John as well as to Jojo, played at separate performances by Kayla Mascall and Christina Sangineti, both from the class of 2017.

Full disclosure: I know someone in the cast, but only one person, and she had a small part, as this was her first show. But for the record, Megan Malone shined in her role! You're gonna be a star some day kiddo, and I'm glad to have been there for your first show!

The sets were crazy. And by crazy I mean, "Whaaaaaat??? Am I really in a local school auditorium and seeing all of this??? Really???" They were truly amazing! So much work, painting, sawing, creative designing and just plain ol' man hours must have gone into them and they paid off 200%. Those involved in set design, painting and construction should be very, very proud of their hard work!

Malverne High's lighting, sound and costume departments were all equally stellar and extremely impressive. Lighting cues were hit, sound systems were crisp and dependable, and the costumes were beyond expectation and really, really fun to see, both as they were introduced and throughout the show.

The pit orchestra was perfect, really. All of them--all of you--should be so proud of your talents and hard work! Big props too go to co-directors Kenneth Zagare and Rachel Trevor. To be able to coordinate and teach all of the actors their parts, the choreography and the cohesiveness of the entire show, takes incredible talent. Malverne High School is in very, very good hands and the students are extremely fortunate to be under the tutelage of these masters of their craft!

Actors truly are what make or break a show, and the talent exhibited this past week in Malverne was truly inspiring and inspired. A huge cast came together after months and months of practice and rehearsals, each one having put in so much hard work to get their part and parts perfect. And all of them deserve paragraphs to themselves which I unfortunately cannot do.

I've written this review as a new Malverne resident (as of 2009) as the best way I know how to help support both the Malverne community and the local high school. The auditorium itself is located less than a thousand feet from my house, so I also look forward to the thriving future of live entertainment here in Malverne just a very quick walk away! And so, though I cannot single out all of the actors, I do hope each of them knows their hard work was appreciated, their parts were all enjoyed and they did a great, great job!!! So please forgive me now for only highlighting three of the cast members before I close.

First there is Horton, played by Ashanti Graham, whose voice was just beautiful. My Playbill tells me he's only a sophomore, so Malverne can look forward to more stellar performances from him in the next two years! His acting was perfect, his voice was perfect and he succeeded in capturing the audience's collective heart with an extremely tender and beautiful portrayal of Horton as the sweet and loving elephant. It’s a great role, but all roles are only as great as the person playing them that day. And he did so beautifully. Well done, Ashanti!

Next there is Gertrude, played by the perfectly cast Samantha Henry. I'd never seen the show before Saturday, having missed it when it was on Broadway. Nor had I heard the soundtrack except for a live rendition of one famous Gertude song by Billy Elliot's Tessa Netting. It's clearly a role that requires lots of stage presence, ownership of the part and confidence. It also calls for oodles of talent, and Samantha Henry had all of it. She was wonderful and funny and sweet, and she always had our full, enthusiastic attention every time she was on stage. Also a sophomore, Samantha will no doubt shine in the years to come at Malverne! She was fabulous! And since it's too good not to include, here's part of her Playbill bit: "Because she is playing a bird in Seussical, Sami would like to dedicate her performance tonight to lonely penguins everywhere." She's also got family in the pit--her dad Steve Henry and brother, Max Henry joined Jim Brosnan as the brass section, who were all awesome!

And finally, last but certainly not least, Zachary St. John played the Cat In The Hat. Two words: Tony Award. This guy has got Broadway written all over him! Only a junior, Malverne still has one more year to see him be amazing right here at home, and on Saturday afternoon, I witnessed a true star in that mischievous cat makeup and costume. You know it when you see it, and those who attended any of this past week's performances would have seen it each and every time I'm sure. He belongs on stage! Zachary was just awesome through and through and he made his already big part even bigger, not with big moves or gaudy attention-grabbing maneuvers, something no good actor does. No, he had your attention with the smallest little smiles and funny little moves. He could sing, he could dance, he could act--he even played the trumpet! Can anyone say "Quadruple Threat"?! He was just SO good, and if the little kids and moms and dads hadn't surrounded him for pictures after the show, I'd have made my way to congratulate him too. Bravo, Zack!

All of the actors, set builders, musicians, and production staff deserve a standing ovation for a job very well done. This was only my first show as a new Malverne resident, but I can tell already that the future for Malverne and the world is already very, very bright! The young people coming out of this small hamlet are enormously talented, and whether mentioned here or not, you were all awesome!

I'm so happy to be part of this community and looking forward to many more great productions in the future! Best wishes and much success to all of you!

Sean Patrick Brennan
Malverne, New York
March 13, 2011

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