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Previews: SOMETHING ROTTEN! at Westhill High School

If you think school musicals are in any way inferior to professional stage productions, you owe it to yourself to see Something Rotten!

If you think school musicals are in any way inferior to professional stage productions, you owe it to yourself to see Something Rotten!, this year's show presented in December by the Stamford All-School Musical at Westhill High School.

Founded in 2007 by the Stamford Public Schools, the Stamford All-School Musical remains the only theater program of its kind. Each year, serious amateur and aspiring professional performers from Stamford's public schools and area parochial and private schools, working alongside theater professionals and devoted volunteers, mount a full-scale, professional grade musical. Some past performers, including former Trinity Catholic's brothers Michael and Kyle McArthur and Westhill High School's Talia Robinson, have even appeared on Broadway and Off-Broadway. Current Production Manager and Sound Designer Daniel Bria (an AITE graduate) ran sound for Come From Away on Broadway and the National Tours of School of Rock and Miss Saigon. Additional creative team members include Zachary Kampler (Music Direction), JP Misciagna (Technical Director) and William Brown (Lighting Design).

For most students, this annual production is their first opportunity to do a professional musical, with all that it entails. Typically, students from the fifth grade through 12th grade can participate, but this year's show is rated PG-13, so the students in the show -- cast and crew had to be at least 13 years old.

Nancy Freedman, who has been producing the Stamford All-School Musical since 2008, has presented a range of musicals in the program's 15 year history, including golden age musicals, family-friendly Disney titles, and more contemporary shows. This year the production team, including Freedman, Co-producer Amy Guttman, Director Jessica Freedman, and Choreographer/Artistic Director Linda Duci, were excited to havef the opportunity to present the recent Broadway hit, Something Rotten!, a musical comedy by John O'Farrell and Karey Fitzpatrick, with music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, which opened on Broadway in 2015 and was nominated for ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Score, and Book. Set in Shakespearean England, the Bottom Brothers, Nick (played by Niko Rinaldi) and Nigel (Leo Field) are struggling to succeed in the theater, but their competition is none other than the wildly popular and successful William Shakespeare (Max Guttman). Cash-poor and desperate Nick Bottom pays a half-witted soothsayer to advise him on what the next big thing in theater will be in order to outdo Shakespeare, his nemesis. When told that the future of theater will be "musicals," a totally new concept in the 1590s, what happens next is not to be missed.

Other principals include Nostradamus (Lauren Bin), Bea (Hayden Katz), Brother Jeremiah (Michael Faherty), and Portia (Lola Duhov).

Other cast members include Kaylee Deenihan, Lilah Gordon, Ella Leferman, Sydney Mann, Palva Smid, and Emily Wainwright as the Bard Girls. The Troupe is composed of Claire Chasanoff, Sebastian Colfer, Kristina DeLelle, Eli Donahue, Paul Ferris, Hathaway Liparidis, Beverly Lopez, Jack Samela, Olivia Sosa, and Kayley Stephens. The Ensemble features Pierce Colfer, Isla Cruz, Lilian Del Portillo, Skyla Johnson, Jayda Jones, James Kolman, Greenley Lasko, Charlotte Lupinacci, Kaitlyn Miranda, Izabella Nastasi, Ava Sanchez, and Sarah Strom.

The student crew consists of Milan Arpino, Miles DeSantis, America Laist, Miriam Mann, Aviva Moss, David Lowe, and Pierce Colfer.

The cast has been working tirelessly since early September and is excited to be back on stage singing and dancing after the significant disruption the global pandemic had on choral and theatrical offerings in the schools.

Freedman notes that, as with all theaters, the Stamford All-School Musical was dark during the pandemic. She notes that students "lost two years of learning how to perform and sing." Last year, because of the aftermath of the pandemic, Freedman wasn't sure if the program could successfully launch a traditional full-scale show, so she opted for a musical revue, All Together Now!, which was offered free of charge to theater groups worldwide by licensing company Music Theatre International. But this year, it's back to an 11-piece live orchestra, gorgeous set designed by Clifton Chadick, and everything you would expect at a full stage production, not the Broadway Jr. series. One of Freedman's goals is to keep ticket prices steady and affordable, not just for students, but for parents, seniors, and passionate theater lovers who are struggling with the high costs of everything else today.

It takes a lot of work to put on a show, Freedman notes. The timeline is about 10 months, from first thinking about the show, to gathering a production team, licensing the show, raising funds, working with the school administrators to set the calendar, holding workshops, auditions, and rehearsals, building the set, loading in sound and lighting equipment, teching the show, and getting the word out. "We go all in, and we hope the community comes out," says Freedman.

Something Rotten! is a clever, witty, sophisticated show that will delight everyone who loves Shakespeare and everyone who doesn't like Shakespeare. Performances are at Westhill High School, 125 Roxbury Road in Stamford (off Long Ridge Road). There is ample parking. Performances are on Fridays, December 2 and 9 at 7:30 p.m.and Saturdays, December 3 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, December 11 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 for students in high school or younger and for senior citizens. Regular adult seats range from $17.00 to $50.00. There is an online service fee. Get your tickets at www.stamfordschooltickets.org and learn more about the Stamford All-School Musical at www.stamfordallschoolmusical.org. You can see videos of scenes from past shows at https://stamfordallschoolmusical.org/pictures%2C-videos. You can also see the cast perform at the 29th annual Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular (http://stamford-downtown.com/events/stamford-downtown-parade-spectacular-3/#.Y3FP4HbMK3A) at noon on Sunday, November 20.

Stamford's All-School Musical is made possible through the generous support of Pitney Bowes, the Garden Homes Fund, and the support of many generous families, community members, and organizations.


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