With almost 300 students who came together in all facets of production to pull off performing Footloose at this week, director Anthony Pollera said the best part isn't the quality of the show itself.
Rather, it's the sense of community they foster along the way: kids from different walks of life, different grades, with different academic paths and interests working together for a common goal and developing friendships along the way.
"That's what's great about it," he said.
Footloose opened Tuesday and runs through Saturday night, although Friday and Saturday performances are sold out. The students have been working together since January, with two-hour rehearsals four days a week. Their excitement spilled over from rehearsals into their school days.
"They come into my room for lunch and they’re dancing and singing the songs," Pollera said. "They eat it up."
He had to make a few script adjustments to make the show appropriate for a middle school audience, for instance changing one of the key sets to a barbeque joint instead of a bar. They added "Hoedown Throwdown" by Miley Cyrus as the big dance number at the end.
Last year's musical production was Disney's Cinderella, which was more elaborate in terms of costuming.
"It was magical and it was costume driven, but I wanted to have more kids involved," Pollera said. This year's production "is a beautiful vocal show with a lot of harmonies."
Among the twenty-something lead roles in the show, ninth graders Spencer Rosner and JuliaPaige Joseph star as Ren and Ariel. Rosner is a fixture in the local theater scene, having appeared in productions at Theater Three and played Prince Charming in Cinderella last year. Pollera described Joseph, who was a stepsister in Cinderella, as a likable presence on stage who can both sing and act extremely well.
He is in his ninth year as director of the program, which he calls the R.C. Murphy Musical Theater Company. Like the theater arts program at Gelinas, which last week produced , Murphy's program is in many ways self-sustaining, though it does receive a good amount of direct district support.
As the school board mulls myriad program cuts in light of a, reductions to theater arts may be in the future for Three Village. But for now, the focus is on the task at hand, and based on Tuesday's performance, Patch has been hearing rave reviews from those who have seen it.
"It should be fun," Pollera said. "There’s plenty of time to be serious in their life. This should be enjoyable, they should get confidence out of this."