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A long-awaited return to the stage for Mattituck High School’s theater group

When Mattituck High School senior Abby Tyler takes the stage this weekend as Lucy Van Pelt in the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” she’ll carry with her a bit of history.

“Two of the people that I look up to most have played this role in the past — one of our directors, [Anne] Gilvarry, and Marissa Russo, who got me in my first show ever when I was 8,” Abby said, noting the role has extra importance to her. “So it’s really cool to kind of join this legacy.”

For Abby and the rest of the cast and crew, the musical represents a return to normalcy and a chance to once again do what they love. The curtains will rise on a musical at the high school auditorium for the first time in two years this weekend after the ongoing pandemic halted productions in the past school year.

The show also represents a significant moment for Mattituck’s theater group, dating back to 2011. 

“It was the first show after a 20-year hiatus of there not being any musicals here at Mattituck,” Ms. Gilvarry said.

Ms. Gilvarry said that although there were plays on the Mattituck stage, the district hadn’t produced musicals since the late 1980s. Musicals were brought back after a group of students in the class of 2011 advocated for their return and successfully petitioned the school board for funding and the additional show, which started the Mattituck Musical Theater Company, according to Ms. Gilvarry. Their first performance was “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

“So for the past 11 years, we’ve been doing a show every year until last year, when we were not able to because of the pandemic,” Ms. Gilvarry said.

This year’s production will be held Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m.

Bringing back a musical through an ongoing pandemic started with maintaining connections with the actors through activities like a virtual viewing party, Ms. Gilvarry said.

“For a lot of these kids, this is their identity at school is being a part of this group. It’s not just their friend group, but it’s how they feel they belong,” she said.

Safety was also a priority. Actors wear clear masks as they’re singing and dancing on stage and there is distancing wherever possible.

The show has gotten an upgrade from 2011.

“We also thought about if we go back to our roots, you can also show how much the program’s grown so Charlie Brown 2022 is a bigger show … it’s also a nice way to show how the program’s grown, as well as kind of honor our comeback,” Ms. Gilvarry said.

There’s creative new set designs, more technology, a pit orchestra and more, she said.

After two years of being away from the stage, co-director Jake Fowle said jumping back into the directing role was like muscle memory.

“Now coming back, it feels easier and for Ms. Gilvarry and I, we feel refreshed,” he said. “We know better what works, what doesn’t work, and we can continue to grow the program now in a direction that works for both of us.”

Mr. Fowle said that the actors are excited to bring this production to the community. 

“Now it’s something that they’re savoring,” he said. “They’re so happy to be able to come back to the stage again, and to bring the arts and theater into the community.”

Senior Micky Kalich plays Charlie Brown. He commended the co-directors for their leadership in putting the production together.

“I think Mr. Fowle and Ms. Gilvarry do a really great job,” Micky said. “I think this is a really great program not only for people to express their musical skills, but also to make a lot of friends and just have a really great high school experience doing something they love a lot.”

Mr. Fowle encouraged the community to watch the show and support the theater program.

“These kids are putting their heart and soul into this performance,” he said. “Come out, come support the program, come support the arts.”

Tickets will be available at the door and are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

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