THE MELROSE MIRROR
... students produce high quality show ...
By Jackie Wattenberg
Maybe it's because once Theater Two's fall musical is over, the theater season in Melrose is ended that throngs flocked this spring to "Fame" as performed by Melrose High School. Or maybe record crowds came because they heard it was a captivating show with lots of energy as directed by Marcy Holbrook, she of the now gone but still lamented Sock 'n' Buskin theatre, and director at Channel 3, MMTV.
This show was a hit a few years back in New York. It's based on that city's real-life School of Music and Art. The whole thing swept by so fast that it was over before we quite got a chance to take a breath. There were a lot of songs, with Dorothy Travis in charge of the music; zippy dancing -- credit to Bill Nagle with help from Suzanne Bibilos; a variety of distinctive characters; and a cast without a weak link.
Student productions are not technically reviewed, but in the void of more theater in town, and with the high quality of this show, we just want to point out some of the show's highlights, and the kids who, with Marcy's guidance, made it work.
The complex lead part of Carmen, part leader, part victim, part heartbreak, was played with a lot of guts and talent by Theresa Melito. Dancing, singing huskily, being bold or pathetic, she managed to bring the character to life. A similar character, another kid with attitude, was portrayed by Kahleil Blair, sparring with Danielle Barriere, adjusting nicely to the youthful thoughtlessness of her role.
Chris Lavoie's lean, lanky stance and easy patter in his raunchy song brought constant laughs; Pat Harlow's awkward response to Carmen's approach was a show-stopping riot, though he later had to show maturing, too; Emily Taffe's decisive style always makes her a standout (she's also a Melrose Symphony scholarship winner as a violinist); the pretty singing of Daria Hinz was winning in her shifting relationship with Johnathan Marenco, sensitive in his role as a very serious student; and the vivacious personality and singing of Alex Censullo were charming.
Their "teachers" were notable, too: Vinny Ularich maintained a commanding presence as drama teacher; tall freshman Eric Barriere appeared much older and assumed a nice German accent; Rachel Cranmer was consistent in portraying the steadfast devotion of the dance teacher to her students, who were perturbed, in turn, by Amy Gallagher, inviting our disdain as the uncompromising English teacher.
The small orchestra was strong throughout the show. Audiences were larger than ever, and in high spirits. Maybe Ms. Holbrook, who pulled this wide-ranging show together with her skills and warmth, could bring a great play also to the boards next year, with high school students or area citizens. American theater, as well as British, offers so many dramas and comedies that should not be neglected. A mid-winter straight play would be a bad-weather treat, followed by the annual spring musical that we can all enjoy.
Previously printed in The Melrose Free Press on May 11, 2000.
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