As she watches the dress rehearsals for the Newton High School’s fall play, Melinda Worthington is confident she’s got a graveyard smash on her hands. This year’s fall production at the high school will be a doubleheader, opening with Happily Ever After’s Top Chef, and finishing off with Transyl-Mania. Worthington has been wanting to a do a Halloween-themed show for years, and this year she pushed up the dates for the fall production in order to get her actors ready in time for a series of Halloween shows on Oct. 27 and Oct. 30.
“I’ve always wanted to do a Halloween show, and ask the audience to dress up,” Worthington said.
At the end of the production, audience members will have a chance to trick or treat with actors, and take photos on the stage. Worthington hopes that giving audience members more opportunities to interact with the actors will make it more memorable.
“These guys are amazing, they’re a really good group,” Worthington said. “They always rise to the occasion.”
Both shows feature a heady mix of the occult, and Worthington said she picked each production for its family-friendly atmosphere. In Transyl-Mania, a group of human high schoolers are stranded outside a high school for monsters when their bus breaks down. As the humans interact with the monsters, lots of laughs ensue as they learn how to befriend one another. The pre-show, Happily Ever After’s Top Chef imagines a cooking show staffed by fairy creatures. Fairytale staples Rumpelstiltskin, the Big Bad Wolf and the three bears battle it out to see who’ll end up at the top of fairy heap.
In a departure from year’s past, the productions this fall give students a chance to have fun with their roles. Isaac Freidman, who plays Hotep the mummy, said he knew he’d figured out the perfect voice for his character when his fellow actors couldn’t stop laughing.
“It’s high pitched, kind of squeaky, not what you’d expect from a Pharaoh,” the NHS junior said. “At first I didn’t really know how to play an old guy chasing after his past wives.”
In order to get ready for the twin bill, practices are long, with students working their way through three-hour long rehearsals, but Friedman said the cast and crew don’t mind. It’s just another chance to build more camaraderie with one another. The hardest part of getting ready for this year’s show is preparing the finale. At the end of Transyl-Mania Friedman and the rest of the cast will forgo the traditional curtain call to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Teaching 20 high school students to dance might sound like a tall order, but choreographer Bethany Baumgartner is up to the challenge. The NHS senior also appears in the production, playing the role of Chelsea, one of the humans. Baumgartner is no stranger to managing a crowd, she choreographed last spring’s production of Beauty and the Beast, which featured a cast of more than 70, which makes teaching her classmates the “Thriller” dance seem easy.
“It’s a lot of fun, I’m a Pacesetter, so I just love to dance,” Baumgartner said.
Like Friedman, Baumgartner is hoping the shows will pull in plenty of costumed kids. Learning to get along with one another and celebrate each other’s differences is a message that she thinks will resonate with everyone. When she steps out on onto the stage for opening night she’d be thrilled to see hundreds of theatergoers, sporting their best Halloween finery.
“They’ll feel like they’re part of show,” Baumgartner said.
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