OLL Stages First Musical


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Cast members (l-r) Matteo Celleri, Alex Corrigan, Brittany McFarlane, Brandon Tomeo and Kaitlyn Gibson

In an effort to further embrace the arts and give students exciting new challenges, Our Lady of the Lake School (OLL) staged its first musical on May 4 and 5, performing to a standing-room-only audience. With 21 student actors, 11 crew members, two teachers, two high school alums and several dedicated parent volunteers, the project was brought to fruition in just a few months.

The effort was embraced by Brittany McFarlane, OLL’s fifth grade teacher with a love of theater who took on her latest project wholeheartedly. When not coaching the school forensics team or teaching reading, McFarlane loves to take on a challenge. Her latest project is testament to this. This winter, in partnership with Jihan “Gigi” Hanna, the school music director, and the full support of Principal Benjamin Ronquillo, McFarlane took on a dream project, introducing twenty-odd middle school students to the world of performance. Memorizing lines, practicing dance steps and singing their hearts out these kids trained for three months.

McFarlane wanted to share her enthusiasm for theatre with her students. She shared that with her after years of performing herself. “This was my first time behind the scenes and I had the privilege of igniting a love for theater in the hearts of these young performers,” McFarlane said. “In addition, our school community had the opportunity to see the unbelievable talent that was just waiting to be put in the spotlight. I am beyond proud of the students for creating a breathtaking show and hope that they continue to share their passion and their love of theater. This musical brought our school joy, excitement and camaraderie. It was a great experience not only for the kids who participated but also for the community at large,” she concluded.

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Hanna, the music director, who also maintains a music studio of her own, oversaw all aspects of the music including independent rehearsals for the solos, piano accompaniment throughout the show and full cast rehearsals. “Working on this musical with the students was a labor of love,” said Hanna. “It was a tremendous undertaking as not only the music of each character needed to be perfected but also the timing. It was especially rewarding to hear the passion in the voices of the students as they sang and to witness the collaboration of all the little pieces coming together to formulate a complete musical. They truly blossomed on stage,” she concluded.

For many of the students, it was their first experience working with choreographers. Isabel Duran and Grace Corrigan, both students from Mount Saint Dominic Academy and OLL alumni, took on the demanding task of getting 21 cast members all in sync for the performance and developed routines that the group could master. McFarlane took on the full cast rehearsals that included things like set design, crew being trained in all aspects of lighting, sound management and prop delivery.

The staff chose the musical (currently featured on Broadway) since it is one act play – hoping it would be both accessible and easier to stage. The play is about an orphan peasant girl on a tropical island who is adopted by peasants and dreams of a life bigger than her own. Part fairytale, part romance, the plot embraces social divisions and teaches about the transcendence of love allows the audience to explore a variety of emotionally charged scenarios.

The performance was greeted with great enthusiasm to a packed house for both evening performances. Proceeds from the event are being used to further develop opportunities for a drama club and future arts programs. For those interested in making donations to this program, please contact OLL Principal Benjamin Ronquillo at 973-239-1160.

Our Lady of the Lake School in Verona is committed to the Word of God through living out the Good News of Jesus Christ. A supportive educational team of students, staff, parents, and community aims at providing a creative, Christian learning environment. An emphasis is placed on developing students’ individual abilities, promoting social awareness, and encouraging them to become responsible, contributing members of church and society. 

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