Mattituck musicals are here to stay

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02/15/2014 10:00 AM |

Art imitates life as Mattituck High School teacher Gary Buckner portrays a teacher in a scene from ‘High School Musical,’ presented this past. (Katharine Schroeder photo)

Following an intermission of nearly 20 years, the musical theater program at Mattituck High School has been performing strongly since it started back up in 2010 with its production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” This resurgence continued with last week’s sold out production of “Disney’s High School Musical.”

The three performances of the contemporary musical comedy — centered around a popular high school basketball star and a shy, academically gifted newcomer who discover they share a secret passion for singing — drew a combined crowd of about 1,000, the school said. And a few actors who started in the program as freshmen were able to celebrate this, their fourth year, in front of a full house.

Click here to see more photos from ‘High School Musical’

English teacher Anne Gilvarry co-directed the musical with chorus teacher Jacob Fowle. Both said they’ve felt overwhelmed by how the musical theater program has grown over the past four years.

“We thanked the audience at our closing night show on Saturday for showing these students how much the community supports their efforts and the arts,” Ms. Gilvarry said. “This was such a special cast and they truly deserved those amazing audiences.”

The musical theater program went dark in 1989 after the district decided no longer to produce musicals. Then in 2010, a group of seniors successfully lobbied to bring musical theater back.

Caroline Keil, student choreographer for “High School Musical,” said her older brother, Colin, and his friends played an instrumental role in musical theater’s return to Mattituck. In elementary school, she said, they had enjoyed participating in musicals so much that they attended several Board of Education meetings in an attempt to get the musical theater program reinstated.

Three students have been with the program since its return four years ago. Seniors Eric Hughes, Caleb Smith and Brette Rosen joined as freshmen.

Eric, who played Ryan Evans in “High School Musical,” said his friend Caleb had convinced him to participate.

“You’ve got to pop in about 40 seconds of bravery and sing at an audition,” he said. “If you get it, that’s awesome. And if you don’t, you say, ‘Maybe next time.’ ”

Caleb, who played Zeke, said that even after four years of participating in the school’s musicals, his heart still pounds each time he performs on stage.

“You might seem like you’re nervous the first day, but once you get up there and you start doing it you realize it’s all worth it,” he said.

Brette, who played Gabriella Montez, one of the lead female roles in this past weekend’s production, said she didn’t audition as a freshman because she figured only seniors would get picked for parts. Instead, she participated by becoming the group’s photographer. The next year she auditioned.

“I think it’s nice for kids who don’t play sports to have something to do after school,” she said.

Ms. Gilvarry, a Mattituck grad whose sister performed in 1989 in the program’s last musical before the 19-year hiatus, said she’s pleased the program has expanded to include seventh- and eighth-graders — and even teachers.

History and government teacher Gary Buckner, who played the drama teacher in “High School Musical,” said he had never acted until Ms. Gilvarry approached him about joining the musical theater program.

Over the past few years, Mr. Buckner said he’s enjoyed watching the program grow in popularity.

“I just wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “I wanted to see how these guys worked and, I can tell you, it’s been really nice working with them.”

Special education and social studies teacher Chris Robinson, who played Coach Bolton, said this is his second year teaching in the district and he decided to join the production to get to know the school’s community better.

“Having an opportunity to link up with a kind of new dynamic with students is exciting, as well as working with staff that I respect,” he said. “It’s been fun. Everybody is in it for the right reasons, so it makes it easy to come in and do this.”

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