GOWANDA — A unique and exciting opportunity for creative collaboration comes true this month as The Thespian Society of Gowanda High School presents its annual musical at the newly restored Historic Hollywood Theater on Main Street.
Due to the ongoing capital project at the Gowanda Central School District campus, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” found a haven for rehearsals and performances in this hall on the main street since the music department was moved due to renovations.
The student actors will take the stage on Friday and Saturday, January 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students/seniors. Contact a cast member to purchase your pre-sale tickets. Tickets can also be purchased at the door. A special free performance for seniors – a tradition in Gowanda – is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
“This is the first time GHS has performed a full musical in Hollywood theater,” says Robin Smith, high school music teacher and producer/director, who is leading the production with Abby Fetterick, GCS alumnus and current Lakeshore High School special education teacher, as co-director overseeing choreography and lighting design. “Which is incredibly exciting, but also a huge undertaking.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is an uplifting story about several eclectic youngsters finding joy, heartbreak and purpose while competing in regional spelling finals. Musical numbers include “My friend the dictionary” “Chaos,” “Magic Foot” and “The song I love you.”
The district has been working on the musical since the end of the 2020-21 academic year due to the overwhelming amount of planning and preparation required to build a bottom-up production.
Performing at the historic Hollywood theater presented an additional challenge. Although the 1926 theater has been restored, the stage has yet to be modernized to accommodate modern performance-based arts, Deb explains. J. Harris, Site Grants and Projects Administrator.
As a result, the lights and sound had to be improved for the production.
“There have been other complete Hollywood plays in the past,” said Harris. “However, this will be the first since the theater was historically restored.”
Due to the pandemic restrictions in 2021, Gowanda CSD set up their elementary/high school production in Hollywood and the high school play was recorded there and released on the big screen.
After those successes, Harris says she and board chairman Mark Burr were approached by Smith and music co-producer Adam Bett, a college music teacher at GCS, who explained their lack of stage status for 2022. .
“We were both more than happy to host them,” Harris says of the decision that led to the musical being staged in Hollywood.
In collaboration with Dan Wiegand, lighting technician (Lockport Stageworks), Matt Estep, sound engineer / technology (Matt Estep Audio) and Bill Peglowski (Falcon Productions), the music department and the Hollywood Theater have built a set of light and fully functional theatrical sound. using a combination of rentals and GCS sound/light equipment.
LABOR OF LOVE
As the performance approaches, the district approaches this opportunity as an ongoing effort. In fact, the Buildings and Grounds Department headed by Richard Smith and his team spent part of a recent snowy day on January 7 transporting equipment from campus to the theater. Along with the Hollywood Theater staff and board of directors (Mark Burr, Deb Harris and Amy Jarzynski), they worked together for the theater loadout.
They collaborated to transport sets, lighting and sound equipment, props and everything else needed for the production. To help the students in their performance, they supervised the movement of large and heavy sets – risers, chairs, stands, microphones, a projector and much more.
“We have worked hard during the pandemic this year to maintain the program and are grateful for our community’s continued support of our GCS musicians,” said Smith. “And seeing everyone from school and theater working together so the kids can be together in this beautiful place and make those memories is priceless to our Panther family.”
In Hollywood, the feeling is mutual.
“We have been restoring this magnificent place for two decades”, said Harris. “And we are delighted that the community can benefit from it.”
Jack Warrior as Charlito “Chip” Tolentino
Sam Latimore as Carl (Papa) Grubenierre and Jesus
Kaeden Salzman as Dan (Dad) Schwartz
Madilyn Pawlak as Miss Honey
Sydney Smith as Leaf Coneybear
Destiny Golden as Leaf’s Memaw
Makayla Kuras as Leaf’s mom
Laila Moon as Leaf’s Blossom sister
Natalie Baco as Leaf’s sister Daisy
Alhanna Gabel as Leaf’s sister landscape
Gabby Whipple as Leaf’s sister Marigold
Cynthia Schukraft as Leaf’s Sister Meadow
Arianna Wolff as Leaf’s sister Orchard
Avery Wilson as Leaf’s sister Pebble
Caitlyn Gangi as Leaf’s Pinecone sister and Olive’s mother
Maddox Booth as Leaf’s sister Raisin
Emma Taylor as Leaf’s saffron sister
Rhianna Bibeau as Leaf’s sister Seashell
Danielle Krajewski as Leaf’s sister Sue
Hailey Christopher as Logainne Schwartz and Grubeniere
Alyssa Golden as Marcy Park
Arley Sommers as Mitch the Comfort Advisor and Olive’s father
Emma Christopher as Olive Ostrovsky
Hanna Green as Rona Lisa Peretti
Conner Wilson as Vice Principal Douglas Panch
Hudson Smith as William Barfee
IT NEEDS A VILLAGE
Also on the production team are Adam Bett, a college music teacher, as producer; Abby Fetterick is no stranger to the scene, having performed in several GCS productions herself. She has also directed and choreographed numerous productions at GMS, GHS, as well as high schools in Hamburg and Lakeshore; Mr. Steven Woods, retired GES music teacher, rehearsal accompanist and vocal coach; Lea Golden, Costume Designer and Title VI Program Director at GCS; Cassidy Smith, Property Master and GCS Alumni. Also, no stranger to the scene having performed in numerous GMS and GHS productions; Garry Smith, set builder (husband of director Smith).
SPECIAL THANKS TO…
¯ Don Wesley (retired GCS teacher and current director of the Springville Center for the Arts) for donating his time and expertise as an acting coach to our cast members.?
¯ Bill Peglowski for his help with light and sound at the Hollywood Theatre.
The community is encouraged to attend this family production. For more information, visit www.gowcsd.org.