GOWANDA – A unique and exciting opportunity for creative collaboration comes to fruition this month when Gowanda High School’s Thespian Society presents their annual musical at the recently restored Historic Hollywood Theater on Main Street.
Due to the ongoing capital project at Gowanda Central School District campus, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” found a sanctuary for rehearsals and performances at this Main Street venue due to the relocation of the music department due to renovations.
Student performers perform on Friday and Saturday, January 21-22 at 7pm. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students/seniors. Contact a performer to purchase your advance tickets. Tickets can also be bought at the door. A special free performance for seniors – a tradition in Gowanda – is scheduled on Wednesday at 3:30pm
“This is the first time GHS has ever staged a full-length musical in Hollywood theaters,” says high school music teacher and producer/director Robin Smith, who is directing the production, along with Abby Fetterick, a former GCS graduate and current special education teacher at Lakeshore High School, as co-director overseeing choreography and lighting design. “It’s incredibly exciting, but also a massive undertaking.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is an uplifting story about several eclectic youth who find joy, heartache and purpose in competing in the Spelling Bees regional finals. Musical numbers included “My friend the dictionary”, “Pandemonium,” “Magic Foot”, and “The I Love You Song.”
The district has been working on the musical since the end of the 2020-21 academic year because of the overwhelming amount of planning and preparation involved in building a production from the ground up.
Performing at the historic Hollywood Theater presented an additional challenge. Although the 1926 theater has been restored, the stage area has not yet been modernized to accommodate modern performing arts, says Deb. J. Harris, grant and project administrator for the venue.
As a result, light and sound had to be improved for the production.
“In the past Hollywood had other full-length plays,” says Harris. “However, this will be the first since the historic restoration of the theater.”
Due to pandemic restrictions in 2021, Gowanda CSD staged their elementary/middle school production at Hollywood and the high school play was taped and shown on the big screen there.
After that success, Harris said, she and board chairman Mark Burr were approached by Smith and musical co-producer Adam Bett, a middle school music teacher at GCS, who explained that there was no stage situation for 2022.
“We were both more than happy to accommodate her,” says Harris of the decision that led to the musical being staged in Hollywood.
Working with Dan Wiegand, Lighting Engineer (Lockport Stageworks), Matt Estep, Sound Engineer/Technician (Matt Estep Audio) and Bill Peglowski (Falcon Productions), the Music Department and Hollywood Theater constructed a fully functional lighting and sound set for the theater. with a combination of rental and GCS light/sound equipment.
LABOR OF LOVE
As the performance date draws near, the District is approaching this opportunity as an all-hands-on-deck effort. In fact, the Building & Grounds Department, led by Richard Smith and his crew, devoted part of a snow day on January 7th to transporting equipment from campus to the theater. Working alongside the staff and board of The Hollywood Theater (Mark Burr, Deb Harris and Amy Jarzynski) they collaborated on the load-in at the theatre.
They worked together to transport set pieces, lighting and sound equipment, props and anything else needed for the production. To help the students perform, they supervised the moving of large and heavy set pieces—stages, chairs, stands, microphones, a spotlight, and more.
“We’ve worked hard this year during the pandemic to keep the program going, and we’re grateful for our community’s continued support of our GCS musicians.” says Smith. “And to see everyone from the school and the theater working together to allow the kids to be together in this beautiful place and create those memories is priceless for our Panther family.”
In Hollywood, the feeling is mutual.
“We have been restoring this beautiful venue for two decades”, says Harris. “And we are pleased that the community can benefit from this.”
Jack Warrior as Charlito “Chip” Tolentino
Sam Latimore as Carl (Dad) Grubenierre and Jesus
Kaeden Salzman as Dan (father) Schwartz
Madilyn Pawlak as Miss Honey
Sydney Smith as Leaf Coneybear
Destiny Golden as Memaw from Leaf
Makayla Kuras as Leaf’s mother
Laila Moon as Leaf’s sister, Blossom
Natalie Baco as Leaf’s sister, Daisy
Alhanna Gabel as Leaf’s landscape sister
Gabby Whipple as Leaf’s sister Marigold
Cynthia Schukraft as Leaf’s sister, Meadow
Arianna Wolff as Leaf’s sister, Orchard
Avery Wilson as Pebble, Leaf’s sister
Caitlyn Gangi as Leaf’s sister Pinecone and Olive’s mother
Maddox Booth as Leaf’s sister Raisin
Emma Taylor as Leaf’s sister Saffron
Rhianna Bibeau as Seashell, Leaf’s sister
Danielle Krajewski as Leaf’s sister Sue
Hailey Christopher as Logainne Schwartz and Grubenierre
Alyssa Golden as Marcy Park
Arley Sommers as Mitch the Comfort Counselor and Olive’s Dad
Emma Christopher as Olive Ostrovsky
Hanna Green as Rona Lisa Peretti
Conner Wilson as Deputy Principal Douglas Panch
Hudson Smith as William Barfee
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Also part of the production team are: middle school music teacher Adam Bett as producer; Abby Fetterick is no stranger to the stage, having appeared in several GCS productions herself. She has also directed and choreographed many productions at GMS, GHS, and Hamburg and Lakeshore High Schools; Mr. Steven Woods, retired GES music teacher, rehearsal guide and vocal coach; Lea Golden, costume designer and Title VI program director at GCS; Cassidy Smith, Property Master and GCS Graduate. Also, he is no stranger to the stage having appeared in many GMS and GHS productions; Garry Smith, set designer (husband of director Smith).
SPECIAL THANKS TO…
¯ Don Wesley (retired GCS teacher and current director, most recently at the Springville Center for the Arts), for providing his time and expertise as an acting coach for our cast members.?
¯ Bill Peglowski for his help with lighting and sound at the Hollywood Theatre.
The community is encouraged to participate in this family-friendly production. Visit www.gowcsd.org for more information.