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Hicksville Illustrated News - Schools

MS Play Is More Than A Catchy Tune

Students at Hicksville Middle School have been working hard to prepare for their upcoming performance of Once Upon a Mattress, which debuts next weekend.

Once Upon a Mattress retells the story of The Princess and the Pea in musical form. The director in charge of the production, Thomas DePalo, works with the students to create a memorable performance not only for his students, but also for the audience.

“I want people to leave the theater saying, ‘that was a great show,’ not ‘that was a great middle school show,’” said DePalo.

Working alongside DePalo are musical directors Justin Starr and Laurie Haddock to help the students sing, dance, act and follow stage directions.

There are 90 students on the stage and 25 crew members that take care of the set, the light and the sound, according to DePalo.

Many of the students who are now eighth graders have been involved in the school play since sixth grade. “You see a huge development just in the way they will portray a character as they mature and get older,” said Starr.

“It’s amazing to see how they grow,” said DePalo. “It makes me feel proud being someone who has helped foster that.”

School principal Mara Jorisch sees the importance of musical theater and wants as many students to get involved as possible.

“You get to see them from all different backgrounds coming together on stage,” Jorisch said.

Students make their own posters for the play and publicize them around the building. “We hope to see more students come to watch the play and seek to get involved next year,” said Jorisch.

Seventh grader Krisia Romano is playing the lead character, Princess Winnifred, in the play. Romano, who has been singing since she was four -years-old, was involved in the play last year, but this is her first year in a lead role.

“I’ve learned a lot from working with Mr. DePalo,” she said. “He’s a really good director. Right now, I’m learning how to breathe to reach some notes in the songs.”

Alongside Romano as one of the lead characters in the play is seventh grader Viren Fernandes who plays the role of King Sextimus the Silent. This is his third year performing in a school play.

“Every year I get a different role and each role gives me a different opportunity to learn different things,” said Fernandes.

Fernandes has learned to have big movements and expressions from playing a character that communicates mostly nonverbally. “This year, the main thing that I’m practicing is my expressions since I don’t have my voice,” he said.

When it’s time for the performance, the students are usually facing a packed auditorium, according to Jorisch. “It’s an exciting time, because the play represents a lot of what middle school is, which is taking a chance, trying new things and setting goals,” she said.

The sixth, seventh, and eighth graders will be performing Once Upon a Mattress March 20, 21, and 22 at 7 p.m. at Hicksville Middle School.