Ozzie (played by John Gableman), Claire de Loone (played by Olivia Gaidry), Gabey (played by Tim Jacoboski), Ivy Smith (played by Maggie Maselli), Chip (played by Liam Welsh) and Hildy Esterhaze (played by Maddie Bradley) work on their dance moves in rehearsals for On the Town, coming to the Old Saybrook high School stage from Thursday, March 14 to Saturday, March 16.
Find more rehearsal photos at Zip06.com. (Photo by Susan Lambert/Harbor News
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New York, New York, it’s a helluva town. And students at Old Saybrook High School (OSHS) will sing and dance their way through it when they perform On the Town Thursday through Saturday, March 14 to 16. It’s 1944, and sailors Chip, Gabey, and Ozzie, played by OSHS seniors Liam Welsh, Timothy Jacoboski, and John Gabelmann, respectively, have just 24 hours of shore leave. In the song “New York, New York,” they make clear their expectations: We’ve got one day here and not another minute To see the famous sights We’ll find the romance and danger waiting in it Beneath the Broadway lights Tourism. Romance. 24 hours. It’s a tall order. Gabey wants to meet not just a girl, but “one special girl,” Jacoboski said. “I can relate a lot to his sense of innocence but also [to] the sense of he’s got to be a macho man in the Navy,” he said. “He’s got to prove himself to be this big old guy and he’s got to be great. But he realizes it’s tough and it’s a bit scary and you’ve just got to push through that and do what you can and everything will be okay.” Ozzie is “rather similar to Chip in a lot of ways,” said Gabelmann. “But he’s kind of bone-headedly confident. He just kind of does what he wants to do and doesn’t really care about what happens. “It’s been interesting to get to know him for sure because it’s not how I am in real life,” Gabelmann continued. “I’m pretty calculated and analytic as a person. But it’s always fun to get out of your comfort zone and play a character that’s not similar to who you are. It’s been a process but I think I’m getting there.” According to Lenore Grunko, the school’s drama advisor, performing this show is not a walk in the park. References to the show are “always cropping up, but nobody ever does the show because it’s so hard and has so much dancing. The music is incredibly difficult. It’s harder than [Stephen] Sondheim and it’s harder than [Leonard] Bernstein’s West Side Story. I honestly don’t know of a musical that is this difficult to perform and I’ve done a lot of musicals.” The music for On the Town is also by Bernstein. “I like exposing people to shows that they haven’t seen a hundred times,” she said. Grunko choreographed the show with two OSHS juniors, Mara Kelley and Maggie Maselli. Maselli, who also plays Ivy Smith, one of three female leads, began her study of ballet when she was two years old and, at 17, is a student with Shoreline Ballet. Choreographing for kids without a dance background wasn’t as difficult as it may sound, she said. “I kind of come up with my idea and I write it down and I think about it for a few days,” she explained. “I do like to challenge them, so I tend to give them steps that are a little bit challenging... Sometimes I do have to tone it down a little bit and [the dances] get simpler. But these kids are really talented and they do pick it up very, very quickly.” Grunko added an additional dance: a tap number in the natural history museum with birds and bugs. “We’re in the natural history museum so we can have anything come alive,” she said. “We could have had tap dancing dinos. So we’ve got tap dancing birds and bugs.” Nearly 40 students make up the cast of the show, with another 10 or so working in tech roles. Three students are in the orchestra, which is mostly made up of music teachers from Old Saybrook and other schools. “It’s a community thing, even in the orchestra,” said Maddie Bradley, who plays Hildy, a taxi driver, another female lead. “They’re really passionate about it and it’s really cool when it all comes together.” Bradley and Olivia Gaidry, who plays Claire de Loone, an anthropologist who works at the natural history museum, were given lead roles in Into the Woods in their freshman year. “I played the role of Cinderella, and it was a huge step up,” said Bradley. “That experience really pushed me right into the drama scene and it was very, very, very nerve racking to be basically one of the lead roles as a freshman. I had just heard so much about this drama department here at the high school. It really pushed me to try to live up to that potential of this OSHS drama. “We’re all so supportive here and it’s been supportive ever since my freshman year,” she continued. “Everyone was helping me...It’s such a great community.” “There’s something about the atmosphere here where the upperclassmen always help the underclassmen,” Gaidry said. “I know it happens in sports, too, but especially here there is a really big blur between the grade levels.” “We have to constantly work together, it’s constant teamwork,” said Breydan Medbury, a senior who is the show’s senior stage manager. “We learn each others’ strengths and weaknesses.” Medbury got started in stage management as a freshman on the spring musical production and now works on productions for Salt Marsh Opera and Saybrook Stage Company. Despite being a singer, “I’ve never been huge on being on stage,” he said. “I love running everything to make it click backstage. I’ve tried doing them both at the same time. That was not successful. “I’m thinking of double majoring in technical theater design and music education,” he added. Gaidry plans to major in musical theater. She’s already been accepted to the University of London and is waiting on other schools before making a decision. Every year, OSHS participates in the Connecticut Drama Association’s student play festival, a weekend in which high schools across the state present 45-minute plays. The OSHS play this year was Impromptu by Tad Mosel; Gaidry directed. Gabelmann and Bradley’s younger brother, Joe, who is also in On the Town, had roles. “As seniors, for most of us, it’s just crazy to think about how fast the time has flown,” Gaidry said, “because there are times when I’m with my friends and we’ll reference productions from our freshman year and it feels like it was just yesterday that we did them. And it’s crazy to think that this is my last high school production.” On the Town will be performed at Old Saybrook High School, 1111 Boston Post Road, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14 through Saturday, March 16, with a Saturday matinée at 2 p.m. Tickets, $12, are available at showtix4u.com, from the OSHS main office, and at the door.