By Staff Writers Shivani Avasarala, Andrew Kan, Katherine Guo & Evangeline Chang
Throughout the years, MSJ’s Drama program has put on a variety of shows. To commemorate these productions, the Smoke Signal has compiled a timeline of several significant productions and accomplishments of the Drama program over the past few decades.
Brigadoon – 1969
First performed on Broadway in 1947, Brigadoon soon established itself as a classic and gained recognition for its famous tracks, including the hit, “Almost Like Being in Love”. The story follows the journeys of two American tourists, Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, after they unknowingly discover a Scottish village that appears only for one day every 100 years. The plot deepens as Tommy falls in love with Fiona, a resident of the mysterious village, and the tourists learn of the curse placed on the village centuries ago.
Hello, Dolly! – 1976
The well-known American musical Hello, Dolly! is the story of a playful matchmaker, Dolly Gallagher Levi. The first version of the musical was A Day Well Spent by John Oxenford in 1835. Since then, there have been multiple adaptations, and in 1969, a movie was made. Hello, Dolly! begins in New York City in the 1890s, and Dolly is a friendly, bubbly woman who helps out friends and neighbors when she can. The story follows her as she finds herself a love interest, Horace Vandergelder, and hilarious chaos occurs around Dolly.
A Streetcar Named Desire – 1989
Written by Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire was an instant hit after it premiered in 1947, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. The play revolves around former aristocrat and teacher Blanche DuBois, her sister Stella Kowalski, and Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski. DuBois has recently quit her job and abandoned the DuBois mansion, Bella Reve, for hidden reasons and tries to seek solace in Stella. However, while the Kowalskis are content with their lives and are expecting a child, DuBois is still coming to terms with her past, desires, and current reality.
Once Upon a Mattress – 1989
Written by Mary Rodgers, with lyrics by Marshall Barer, and based on the book by Jay Thompsen, MSJ Drama’s production of Once Upon a Mattress starred Alumna Rose E. DuLude, class of 1990, as Princess Winnifred, a courageous and unapologetic princess, Alumnus Tim LaTorre, class of 1989, as Prince Dauntless, and Alumni Jenn Choi and Daryll Davidson, class of 1989, as the Queen and King, respectively. The musical revolves around the Queen’s search for a “suitable princess” for her son. As a result, she sets a number of tests for all prospective candidates, including Winnifred.
The Pajama Game – 1990
Directed by MSJ Drama Instructor at the time, Cynthia Wilson, MSJ’s production of “The Pajama Game” featured a diverse cast of 32 actors and a live orchestra directed by Monica Kraft. The play covers the stories of workers in a pajama factory, as their demands for a 7 ½ cent raise in their salaries are ignored, and an unlikely romance develops between the two lead characters, “Babe” and “Sid”. MSJ Alumni Rose DeLude, Henry Hsu, Lesli Margherita, and Adam Brosamer performed the roles of lead characters in the musical.
Fiddler On The Roof – 1992
Both MSJ and Irvington students performed together in a production of Fiddler On The Roof in 1992. The spring musical was directed by the Irvington drama teacher, Linda Jackson, and was performed in the Valhalla Theatre at Irvington High School. The story set in 1905 surrounds the parents of a Russian Jewish family that are trying to marry off their daughters. They count on the matchmaker Yente to find suitable men to marry their daughters, however the three daughters plan to choose their own husbands.
Into the Woods – 1992
Tony Award-winning Into the Woods, which debuted on Broadway in 1987, is based off the book by James Lapine and the music by Stephen Sondheim. It follows the lives and intertwines the tales of several characters from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. At the beginning, a Baker and his wife, a boy named Jack, and Cinderella all have their own wish, which are all eventually granted. However, as the play progresses, the characters begin to regret their wishes and the choices they have made as misfortune befalls them.
Les Misérables – 2004
Performed at the Little Theater in MSJ, the 2004 Spring production of the classic musical boasted a talented cast from MSJ, Irvington High School, Washington High School, and several elementary schools. Students, under the direction of Director Anne Riley, and Vocal Director Lee Glover, took part in the directing and production processes behind the musical. The production also featured a live orchestra conducted by Instrumental Director Monica Kraft. MSJ’s rendition of Les Misérables earned the program a nomination to attend the National Festival of Performing Arts the next year. Lead Actor Alumnus Jeff Oliveira said, “This was a production that brought together so many groups of people across several schools, social groups, and class levels. It raised the bar for future productions and we were able to accomplish so much more than we thought we could. The process was challenging, exhausting, and at times I felt I was going to lose my mind — but it was all worth it in the end.”
National Festival of Performing Arts – 2005
The MSJ Drama program attended the National Festival of Performing Arts in 2005, with a nomination based off of their stellar adaptation of the musical Les Misérables. There, students performed a self-written and self-produced piece centered on the AIDS epidemic, earning them the special judges’ award and a tremendous positive response. Another notable achievement was that of Alumna Beatrice Crosbie, now an actress and musician on Broadway, who won the award for Best Actress for the MSJ production.
Fools and Mission Night Live – 2016
Last year’s spring performance in MSJ’s Little Theater was Fools, by Neil Simon, directed by then Drama Adviser Valerie Carattini and adapted by Assistant Director Alumnus Allamaprabhu Pattanashetty. Fools is a comedic play about the ecstatic Leon Tolchinsky, who unluckily finds himself a job in Kulyenchikov, Russia, a village cursed with “Chronic Stupidity” for the past 200 years. Four shows total were held, each showcasing the talented 25-member cast. Mission Night Live, an original comedic improv by UP, was also performed four times throughout the year.
The Theater Department has been around since the founding of this school in 1964. John Faunt, the first Theater teacher, later founded Universal Performers (UP) in 1969, making it the oldest club on campus. Since its conception, UP has never been disbanded. MSJ Drama has historically placed consistently well at National High School Musical Theatre Awards, CA division, receiving awards there multiple times and a number of other festivals, including winning the Henry Kemp-Blair Shakespeare Festival, an annual Shakespearean festival for CA high schools at Chapman University, 16 consecutive years. A particularly notable event was when Alumna Courtney Stokes won Top Honor’s Best Actress in 2006.
From Now Onward:
The current Drama Adviser Morgan Goldstein is excited to meet and work with students to bring forth their talents. This year, the schedule for productions is lighter, as it is her first year being in charge. There will be a spring performance later in the year, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, but other productions will be on hiatus this year to allow MSJ Drama to prepare to make a resurgence. The Performing Arts Gala will also be a great opportunity to fundraise as well as showcase the department’s work.
Photo Courtesy Music Director Monica Kraft