When co-directors Jake Fowle and Anne Gilvarry were working on getting the license to Mattituck Musical Theater Company’s newest production, “Ranked, A Musical,” they encountered a surprise.
“We just sent an email over to the publishing company and we were getting responses back from the two guys who actually wrote the show,” Mr. Fowle said. “They were saying, ‘Oh, we’re so happy you’re interested! It’s never been done before out in your area on Long Island. We’d love for you to do it,’ — and then we got approved and here we are.”
Mattituck High School’s theater group will present their production this weekend. Performances will be on Friday, Feb. 9, at 7pm and Saturday, Feb. 10, at 1 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10, or $5 for students, and will be available at the door.
Written by Kyle Holmes and David Taylor Gomes, “Ranked” debuted in April 2018 at Granite Bay High School in California, according to rankedmusical.com. Since its debut, it was further produced and developed by the University of California, Davis. The musical has since been further developed at the University of California/Davis and licensed by over 100 schools worldwide. It is also the subject of a 2022 HBO documentary, “My So-Called High School Rank.”
Ms. Gilvarry feels that this unique show will help the Mattituck theater program grow, as it’s very different from anything they’ve done recently.
“We have done comedy for several years in a row now and this [has] much more drama,” she said. “This is something that will help our students get to experience something different in terms of acting and performing, to do something that’s very modern, not just in the setting but the music … it’s really more like a rock musical in some ways … we thought this is the right next step for the kids we have now.”
The show, which premiered just weeks after the national college admission scandal rocked higher education circles, follows Lilly Larsen’s journey to stay “Above the Average.” It’s the story of a “dystopian world where competition reaches new heights as publicized academic excellence defines each student’s worth,” according to the website.
Lilly grapples with the pressure to remain “above the average” and avoid becoming a social outcast and abandoning college aspirations — and watches her peers turn on each other to reach the top of daily academic leaderboards. When a lie is later discovered, it leaves the students’ futures uncertain and unstable.
“The show is very relatable to students now in terms of academic pressure that a lot of students feel,” Ms. Gilvarry said. “This is really going to resonate and that always makes it even more meaningful for kids to perform because they can see themselves in the characters and in what they go through and then it’s even more meaningful because … they’re actually bringing something that they believe in to the stage.”
Senior Amelia Siar is among over 30 cast members from grades 7 through 12.
She hopes that this show leaves the audience with the lesson that everyone has layers to their humanity.
“Your talent or intelligence should not determine your entire life,” Amelia said. “There are many other factors that determine a person’s value.”
Junior Alexandra Rychlik plays Alexis Larsen, the protagonist’s older sister.
“Alexis works very hard and puts a lot of pressure on herself to succeed,” she said. “I relate to this aspect of her because I experience some of the same pressure she does when at school.”
Alexandra also hopes the show conveys a message, and said, “I hope that by viewing our show, the audience learns that while pressure and academic stress are a large part of our lives as students, it’s the caring relationships we build with others that actually matter in the end, not grades.”
Performing in the first Long Island high school production of “Ranked” gives the Mattituck cast and crew freedom to put their own personal stamp on the show, which included working on sets with designer and master carpenter Joe Kenny.
According to his website, Mr. Kenny has a wide theatrical experience, “working on everything from intimate blackbox venues to Off-Broadway blockbuster musicals.”
“I very much respect that they are doing a new musical,” Mr. Kenny said. “It means a lot because I find that, unfortunately, because of funding in various aspects a lot of theaters, have to make that choice to do commercial [shows] and repeat the shows that simply bring in an audience. You start to lose sight of why we do theater and why we should engage in new projects that comment on whatever’s relevant to our society at the time, and so something like ‘Ranked’ — not only is it a new show but it’s doing just that.”
Mr. Fowle said that in addition to the original set, the performers’ characterizations are also a way they’re putting their own spin on the show.
The Mattituck theater group is humbled by the opportunity to be the first to bring this show to Long Island, he said.
“It makes it special — it makes it feel very real,” Mr. Fowle said. “It makes us feel like if we can do it, we’re happy to share this with any other theater community and say, ‘Everybody give this a try.’ ”