“Why is it that people who shouldn’t have children have children?”
That could be asked anywhere in today’s social landscape. Nowhere was it more fitting than on Career High School’s elaborately set stage this past weekend, where the Edgewood After School Drama Club performed My Son Pinocchio Jr. to an audience of nearly 600 parents, teachers, siblings, Edgewood alumni and musical theater geeks.
Produced by Jaime Kane and co-directed by Jennifer Guarino, the musical, performed Friday night and Saturday afternoon, put a new twist on the well-loved Disney film, itself an adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s serial Le avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1880s).
This time, audiences get Geppetto’s side of the story. And it isn’t always an easy one to stomach.
The plot is simple enough: grace à the Blue Fairy (Maggie Guarino-Trier, grade 8) and a tricky little star, Geppetto’s wish for a son is granted in Pinocchio, his exquisite pine puppet. But Pinocchio (Donte Warren-Black, grade 5) is a disobedient and precocious little boy with his own agenda, and Geppetto wants him turned back to wood.
Que the tradition of the twentieth-century musical: a long journey to realization, where the very real tribulations of parenthood are couched in a fantastical world of wish-granting fairies, traveling circus troops, trips to Pleasure Island and toy shops that put digital media to shame.
Boasting a cast of over 70 students (grades 3-8) and a few alumni, the musical was no small undertaking.
If it takes several Italian hamlets to teach proper parenting (spoiler alert: the main ingredient is patience), it also takes the better part of Westville to put together a performance of this magnitude.
“It’s been absolutely unbelievable,” Kane said after Friday’s performance. Responsible for the play’s overarching vision – one that included musical theater workshops in fall 2013, open auditions, and long rehearsals – she credited the Edgewood School community for the musical’s success.
“This show is not only for our children to enjoy, but its central theme is the perfect backdrop to say THANK YOU to all our parents, grandparents, teachers, and administrators: the true role models who face daily challenges and still manage to put their/our/THE children first!” she wrote in her director’s statement.
Others on the production crew echoed her sentiment. “It’s been an absolutely amazing community effort,” Aron Smith, the musical’s musical director, said before the show. “We had 75 students from grades 3-8 plus a number of alumni helping us out backstage, and parents, community members, teachers…it’s a big, big production. It’s really a community building event.” Guarino said.
“I feel like a proud mama. They’ve made me want to get onstage.” Edgewood School principal Monique Brunson said after the first performance.
That so many parents, teachers and community members rallied behind the musical isn’t surprising: Harrell’s vocals were stunning, Warren-Black’s energy was both contagious and thrilling to watch, and the ensemble’s enthusiasm – “we try to make sure everyone in the ensemble has a part,” Guarino had explained – carried the spirit of the show.
Together, the cast taught some very valuable lessons. First and foremost: dealing with fairies is always risky business.
Even more important: when you wish upon a star – especially one that has passed through so many supportive hands – your dreams really do come true.