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BWW Blog: Christopher Panella - FLHS Stageplayers Travel to OZ and the Jungle of Nool, Never Missing a Beat

It has been quite a stellar theatre season for the Ft. Lauderdale High School Stageplayers, who took creativity to a new level with two of the most vibrant musicals available. FLHS Drama has put itself on the map in the past in the ever-growing South Florida theatre community; the Stageplayers received the Southeast Regional High School Theatre Honors Program Award in 2015. Despite the accolade, FLHS Drama refused to take a breather. The club buckled itself into the driver's seat of South Florida high school theatre, speeding to new intersections of artistry and charisma.

The 2015 fall production, The Wizard of OZ, was quite an achievement. From the very moment of casting, it was clear that this production had the cast to make this old tale of the Merry Old Land of Oz fresh and new. Dorothy, played by sophomore Emily Erickson, never dropped the ball, carrying the show with one hand (with the help of her three best friends, of course). However, the breakout role was the infectious performance by Ashley Gomez as the Wicked Witch. Gomez not only tackled that character from pointy hat to toes, but she also established that character as her own. She was far from a FLHS Drama veteran playing a character; she was that character in every ounce and inch. Wizard was more than a typical children's theatre musical, filling the house with children dressed as their favorite Oz characters, students, staff, parents, and South Florida community members who now know not only the power of theatre but the power of FLHS theatre.

The hype didn't stop there. Seussical the Musical, was just around the corner. This was quite possibly the most inventive and colorful musical the Stageplayers had ever taken on. With a cast hungry for more dancing, singing, and art, FLHS Drama began to think and think and think and think. I was cast to play Cat in the Hat, a role that has stuck with me from the moment I exclaimed my first line back when rehearsals started in January. But there were many more breakout performances, and these performances were not just by cast members. The crew members truly were the stars of the show, from Gabriela Cornejo's intricate and vivid lighting that made the stage more colorful than a bag of Skittles, to the stage management skills of Nathan Shull and Victor Volpato. Bella Kemp and Sasha Rangel never missed a sound or music cue. Other crew members really took advantage of the artistry aspect of Seussical. Samantha Reyes and Natalie Boffil, the art directors, are the real MVP's of Seussical. The sets that couldn't have looked more Seuss-like if Dr. Seuss painted them. Many cast members stole the stage, like Esther Reyes as the Sour Kangaroo, jazzing up the role in a sultry explosion of pure character. Another performance that really lit the stage had to be Jaclyn Hansen-Kauffman as Jojo, a role perfectly fit for the freshman, as she showed when she owned "It's Possible." Seussical couldn't last forever, much to the dismay of audiences. Of course, this season would not have come to life if it weren't for parent and student volunteers, as well as Mr. Katz, the most musically gifted Musical Director the music world has ever seen, and Ms. Catsicas, a major creative force of a Director.

As the FLHS Drama Club wraps the year in preparation for 2016-2017's new obstacles, the Stageplayers are more prepared than ever to hit every dance move, nail every song, and never miss a beat.

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From This Author - Guest Blogger: Christopher Panella