PAWCATUCK — Consolidating nine musicals into one isn’t easy, but that’s what playwright and teacher Sheila Adams decided to create for Pawcatuck Middle School’s last play.
“The 10th Anniversary Musical Tribute” combines the top tunes from the school’s previous musicals with Adams’ narrative, which features Pawcatuck students as real-life narrators who tell the story of searching for the perfect play to commemorate Pawcatuck Middle School as it closes its doors in June, due to the town’s middle school consolidation.
“We were very interested in doing a tenth anniversary show and when the consolidation went in, in terms of this being the last year of Pawcatuck Middle School, we wanted to do something special,” said Robin Aubin, chorus director at Pawcatuck Middle School and the musical director of the play. “But we couldn’t decide on the last show so we decided why not do all of them? We’re very lucky to have our own playwright because Sheila wrote a show connecting the nine shows.”
The play reflects some of the real conversations students are having about the school consolidation, said school psychologist Lori Liguori, who choreographs the musicals.
“The kids talk about this being their last year and they say we need to do something epic,” Liguori said. “With the consolidation, we wanted to make it positive, not dwell on negativity. It’s just this is the last time we’re doing a Pawcatuck production.”
The play includes musical highlights from, in order from oldest to most recent, “Annie,” “Beauty & the Beast,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Willy Wonka,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Guys & Dolls,” “Aladdin,” “Shrek” and “Nifty Fifties.”
Some students, like seventh-grader Brianna Plew, 12, who has been in the musicals every year since fifth grade, play both themselves as narrators and parts in the musicals.
“It’s kind of difficult to switch between myself and other characters because you have to stop being yourself and put yourself in another character’s shoes,” said Plew who is one of the lead narrators and also plays Winifred in “Once Upon a Mattress” and Fiona in “Shrek.”
Adams said the structure of the play gave students multiple choices for roles this year.
“They could audition for a person who’s just singing one of the lead songs in the vignettes, or a person acting in the vignettes, or a narrator who’s got significantly more lines than any of the vignettes,” she said. “Students could pick and choose.”
Eighth-grader Noah Christina, 13, has been in the school’s musicals for four years and plays a narrator, the Tin Man in “Wizard of Oz” and George from “Nifty Fifties.” He said he enjoys playing multiple parts, especially the singing ones.
“I’ve had three roles before and it’s cool trying to change your costume and stuff and trying to get it all done,” he said. “I like the part I have to sing as the Tin Man — singing is my favorite part.”
Also included in the play are Adams, Aubin and Liguori, who are dubbed the “three-headed wizard” because they have worked together as a team to produce Pawcatuck’s musicals for seven years.
“We show up on stage and I talk about how I was not supposed to be doing drama, I was just supposed to be doing chorus as my ‘retirement job,’” laughed Aubin. “I said no and then it shows me doing the next play and the next play.”
The ‘wizard’ appearances add another level of humor, said Liguori.
“We all have lines — it’s a joke within the play,” she said.
Other “surprise appearances” include Stonington High School seniors who participated Pawcatuck's musicals and will play themselves as narrators while also reprising old roles.
“We have someone coming back who played Ali in Aladdin,” said Aubin. “He’ll come on stage at end of “A Whole New World” to incorporate old and new parts at the same time.”
Eighth-grader Aidan Spellman, 13, who plays a narrator, Sultan in “Aladdin” and Sinbad in “Nifty Fifties,” said remembering all of Pawcatuck’s musicals will bring memories for the entire community.
“I think it will give everyone a flashback,” he said.