The Secret Life of Hubie Hartzel is now showing at The Growing Stage (TGS) through March 2nd and it's a hit. We attended their student performance and the audience was captivated. Young and old alike will enjoy the winner of their 2013 New Play-Reading Festival written by Susan Rowen Masters. While completely entertaining, it also sends the right message about communicating and getting along in school.

Hubie Hartzel is having a hard time in the 5th grade; bullied by a classmate, bad grades, a hopeless crush on his art teacher, sick cat at home and even a contentious older sister. The show perfectly captures the sensibilities of middle-school students and the adults who deal with them.

One of the aspects of this world premier production that makes it pop is the multimedia aspect. The video clips on the large backdrop lend additional material often focusing on the inner thoughts of the characters or highlighting one of the dilemmas with some humor. The video segments are artfully embedded in the scenes by Director Stephen L., Fredericks, and Art Director Perry Arthur Kroeger.

Hubie (Danny Campos) is a sympathetic character who tries to seek revenge on the class bully, Ralph Marucci (Josh Carpenter). Hubie is aided by his friend, Frank (P.J. Schweizer) to execute "operation harassment" that will help him get even; a flawed plan that just might work. "You've been pushing me too long" Hubie tells Ralph. It seems high time that he tries to fight back.

Campos is perfect in the role of Hubie, the awkward, artsy kid that can't seem to catch a break. Carpenter has the bully part just right, and Schweizer brings friendship full circle; it's not always perfect. Other roles round out the cast of middle school characters; Beth Pringle (Natalie Pavelek) is the school gossip, and Shelly Hoff (Jillian Petrie) is the pert and popular cheerleader.. If Hubie's life is rough in school, his sister, Brenda Hartzel (Nikole Rizzo) doesn't help much at home. Yet, their sibling interaction is completely genuine.

The adults in the play lend logic and order, but not too much. Lana Slomonsky (Jerielle Morwitz) is the lovely art teacher that is every student's dream. Lori B. Lawrence assumes the roles of grouchy schoolmarm, Mrs. Bunce and the kind Mrs. Hartzel. Jason Scott Quinn carries the roles of a patient, Mr. Hartzel and Fred Ferkle, the cat. Both Lawrence and Quinn make their transitions seamlessly.

If the characters in Hubie Hartzel seem stereotypical, it is only to maintain the clever interplay that is an actual reflection of middle school life. This show has succeeded in bringing real insight to subject that needs to be addressed, bullying. It is a feel-good piece of theater that you can enjoy with your friends and family.

The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of New Jersey is conveniently located in Netcong. For information about their performance of The Secret Life of Hubie Hartzel, and for ticketing information, contact, or visit their website at You may also call (540) 338-5367.

Photo Credit: S.L. Fredericks

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