Think of junior high school musical productions, and you'll likely imagine out-of-tune orchestras, flustered children forgetting their lines and singing off-key, and sets consisting of crayon murals.
You certainly wouldn't think they could even try to pull off a classic like "Damn Yankees."
But the Hawthorne Players of Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 on Oceania Street in Bayside did pull it off last weekend.
That's not to say that no one forgot his or her lines at some point - it happened a handful of times, with quick recoveries - or that everyone sang and acted like Broadway stars, but considering that these were 11, 12, and 13-year-olds who prepared and rehearsed for only 12 weeks, the production was, without exaggeration, an achievement.
As a good example, Sara Lagalante had little problem capturing the character of Lola, the temptress. It was no coincidence that her favorite song of the play is "Heart," since she put a lot of it into the role. When she tried to convince the true-to-his-wife Joe Boyd (Mitch Gootnick, whom you wouldn't mind buying a used car from) that "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets," it was easy to think that she could get whatever she wanted, and hard to remember that she was only 12 years old in the seventh grade.
Branden Quintana, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, has plans to be "a lawyer, doctor, or football player," but last weekend he made a pretty good devil - the conniving Mr. Applegate who purchases Joe Boyd's soul.
The way the lighting and sets were presented, it was obvious that the 20 youngsters on the stage crew had as much interest in presenting a quality show as did the performers.
Director and choreographer Theresa Irrera, in her fourth year as MS 74's drama teacher, comes straight from the professional stage. When she was about the age of her charges, she was already appearing in commercials (Coke, Lipton soup, to name two), and later was one of the orphans in a traveling production of "Annie." She played the little sister Laurie in "Brighton Beach Memoirs" on Broadway in the 1983-84 season.
Irrera chose to turn her talents to teaching because in the professional-acting universe, the performer has to be "too self-marketing, too self-centered," she said.
In the program notes, Irrera writes, "In this charmed story, we experience the true meaning of winning."
The audience indeed experienced this - not just by the storyline, but also by seeing what a group of kids can do when they've got heart.
Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn by e-mail at glenn@time
©2001 Community News Group
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