I Can’t… I Have Rehearsal


I Can't… I Have Rehearsal

For a select few, the high school musical is sacred. Every year those students come together for the Tonys of New Jersey high school musical theatre: The Rising Star Awards. But first, they have to get their shows off the ground. This is the story of six very different high schools from across New Jersey as they rehearse, perform and compete with the very same supercalifragilistic show.

AIRED: May 17, 2017 | 1:00:00

>> Made possible by the

Jean Dubinsky Appleton Estate.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Overture plays ]

>> Good evening, and welcome to

the 2016 Paper Mill

Rising Star Awards.

Tonight, we celebrate the

21st anniversary of the awards,

which recognize excellence in

New Jersey's high-school

musical-theater productions.

>> I would like to just thank my

wonderful director.

>> My parents.

>> The administration.

>> You guys are amazing.

Thank you so much.

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> And the 2016 Rising Star for

Outstanding Overall Production

of a Musical...goes to...

[ Drumroll ]

>> ♪ I wish I were cool

♪ I wish I were rock and roll

♪ I wish I were Jewel

>> ♪ Jewel

>> ♪ Or Alanis Morissette

♪ Maybe I should learn to play

guitar ♪

♪ But I'm too busy listening to

"My Fair Lady" in my car ♪

♪ 'Cause I

♪ I like Julie Andrews

more than Britney Spears ♪

♪ And I know that I went to your

punk show ♪

♪ But I secretly had tissue

in my ears ♪

♪ 'Cause I

♪ Like musicals

>> Remember the kids in high

school who used to make Sondheim


Or break into song and dance on

the way to class?

You might've been one of them.

I was one of them, too.

They're AP students, part-time

employees, a high-school

quarterback, the aspiring star.

Every year, they trade months of

long rehearsals, late

assignments, missed parties,

and missed sleep for just a few

nights of glory and a shot at

Rising Star Award greatness.

But it all starts here.

>> You cannot keep messing up

stuff that we've gone through

over and over!

'Cause that's when I start

taking people out of stuff, and

that's when I start getting

people's e-mails from their


>> ♪ Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious ♪

>> When I told them two years

ago that I wanted to do

"Mary Poppins," they said,

"Okay. That's a big show."

>> It's a very familiar title to


It's brand-new, so something

that we were hoping to, like,

kind of get in there.

We didn't realize that everyone

else in the world was gonna be

doing it at the exact same time.

>> When a show closes on

Broadway, it usually becomes

available for schools, community

groups, and professional

theaters to produce.

And if that show was a hit,

productions seem to pop up


>> Here we go!

>> ♪ Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious ♪

♪ Even though the sound of it

is something quite atrocious ♪

♪ If you say it loud enough,

you'll always sound precocious ♪

♪ Supercalifragilistic

>> ♪ Supercalifragilistic

>> This is the story of

six New Jersey high schools in

the spring of 2016, with one

thing in common...

>> ♪ Expialidocious

>> ..."Mary Poppins."

>> ♪ Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious ♪

>> So, we thought picking

something like "Mary Poppins"

and incorporating the flying,

the magic, the fact that it's

a quality story that's lasted

for so many years, might kind of

appeal to the masses.

>> And getting into it, we

realized how big it is.

>> On the line is the

production's overall success,

but beyond that is the

opportunity for these six high

schools to compete against

dozens of others for

Paper Mill Playhouse's

prestigious Rising Star Awards.

The program's alumni include

Oscar winner Anne Hathaway...

>> ♪ Ella, the girl of the

cinders ♪

♪ Did the wash and the walls and

the winders ♪

>> ...Tony winner and TV star

Laura Benanti...

>> I'd like to thank my family.

>> ...Tony winner for

"The Book of Mormon,"

Nikki M. James...

>> ♪ It's so nice to be back

home where I belong ♪

>> ...Tony nominee for

"Chaplin: The Musical"

Rob McClure...

>> ♪ Once in love with Amy

>> ...and breakout star of

NBC's "The Wiz Live!"

Shanice Williams.

>> ♪ Someone who'll watch

over me ♪

>> The Rising Stars are big.

>> And everyone's in black tie,

and there are celebrity

presenters giving out crystal

stars from Tiffany.

>> You guys worked so hard on


Let us say to you, good job.

>> The Rising Star Awards are

a black tie, Tony Award style

evening here at

Paper Mill Playhouse,

celebrating excellence in

high-school theater all across

the state of New Jersey, not

only performance, but also

design, production,

choreography, direction, and

there are student scholarships

that are given out, as well,

up to $60,000 each year.

>> And this is not the first

year that, you know, multiple

schools do the same show.

A new show comes on, you know,

the rights are released, and

schools get the opportunity, and

so, yes, you see 10 "Les Mis"

or 10 "Mary Poppins"

or however many.


>> A bit about Vineland,

New Jersey.

The rural town was once called

"The Egg Basket of America" for

its booming poultry industry.

But that was about 70 years ago.

Nowadays, the average income per

person is about $24,000 a year.

That's $10,000 less than the

state average.

As for the high school, its

population fluctuates throughout

a given year because some

students move with their parents

to follow the harvest.

Vineland offers students classes

in visual art, music, theater,

and now dance, too, for school

credit and a grade.

Not surprisingly, the school's

spring musical has been steadily

improving over the last few

years under the direction of

fine arts teacher

Melanie Anderson.

>> Because we are from where we

are, I feel like we're always

gonna be the underdogs.

>> It's almost like we're down

here screaming, "Hey, we exist,


We may not have all the same

advantages, but we're working

really hard.


>> When you start to talk about

South Jersey, there's not a

whole lot, by way of employment


There are a lot of kids who feel

like that might be their only


There's drugs, or, you know,


Families are very fragmented.

Sometimes maybe not

purposefully, sometimes just

because, you know, they have to

work constantly.

You have to hold more than one

job, just to -- just to exist.

>> So, they don't mind being

here all the time, because they

love having that, like, family


>> It kind of is their haven.

It's kind of an escape from some

of the things that maybe aren't

so pleasant.

And, you know, for them, it

becomes, you know, the one --

maybe the one reason why they

come to school.

>> Why don't you guys raise your

hand, tell me how you think it

went, get your idea first?


>> I think, for the most part,

it went pretty smoothly.

>> What's our story?

>> Family.

>> Family. What else?

>> Childhood.

>> Childhood.


Following your dream.

Look beyond outer appearances.

So, who's responsible for

telling these stories?

>> We are!

>> Who's the most important

person onstage?

>> Me!

>> A play is only as good as


>> Weakest link!

>> Okay, it's not gonna be you.

You're gonna be the best link

onstage, right?

Somebody's always watching you.

>> On more than one occasion,

Summit has been named one of the

best places to live in

New Jersey.

It's on the direct train line

to Manhattan, and schools are

highly rated.

Summit doesn't offer classes in

dance for credit and a grade,

but the per capita income here

is a roaring $77,000.

So, if students are interested

in instruction, they can likely

afford to go to their local

dance studio.

Affluence also means that

parents, on the whole, are

likely to have more time to get


For a school show, that means

a boost in quality.

Last year, Summit's show

received 11 Rising Star


>> I've got parents here helping

us paint the sets and helping us

build the sets.

I've got moms sewing costumes.

But we have several moms whose

kids graduated 10 years ago, and

they still come back 'cause they

love the program.


>> I've been here nine years


I am a carpenter by trade.

I've been in the trades pretty

much my whole life.

My friend was the science

teacher here.

He asked me if I was interested

in helping him build the sets,

'cause they were looking for


And originally, I thought,

"High-school theater -- what

could it possibly be?"

>> Yes. Definitely.

Defin-- I mean, yeah.

>> I do.

I think that brought a lot of

validation to musical theater.

You know, it was a little

cooler, you know?

I've been in theater since I was

in high school, and we were

always kind of geeky and nerdy,

but I think not quite so much


And if you have good -- If you

have a good program, it also

helps, too.

>> I didn't think I was gonna

get in, and there's like three

guys here, so guys automatically

get in, I guess.


>> It's a rebuilding period for

the musicals at

Somerville High School.

They've only received a couple

of Rising Star nominations in

the past, and English teacher

Laura Manziano is in her

first year directing the show.

Her top priorities -- simple --

bodies onstage and butts in


The town's per capita income is

about $33,000.

There are no classes in theater

arts or dance at the high


Students can travel to the

vo-tech or community college for

instruction, but in this

building, sports get the



>> We really want to set out to

get a lot of people to audition.

I feel like in our school, we

don't get a lot of boys to come

out for the show.

It's hard to play a sport and be

involved in so many clubs and do

drama, as well.

>> The theater kids in my school

are weird, but they're all very

accepting of one another, and we

all love each other's weirdness.

In recent years, I think we've

had a drop in especially the

amount of boys that have come

out for the musical.

I think sports are a much more

popular, school-wide thing here.

>> So convincing the high-school

quarterback to audition for

the spring musical was

a definite win.

>> They were -- I don't know.

They were a little bit like,

"Why are you doing that?", but

they're pretty good guys, so

they didn't really care that

much, and they're all coming to

this, so they're coming to


>> I think it would be awesome

to get it, that you can be an

athlete on the field and you can

still do theater, that it's not

just something for girls.

So, being able to rope a kid in

like him, who had never really

done theater before, is huge.

>> But let's set

extracurriculars aside for a


One thing to note about the

in-school arts classes --

they're not just there for kids

to try something new.

For students who are already

immersed in the world of

theater, mastery is what


Think about this -- Particularly

with music and dance, artists

generally need to start young to

even have a chance of making it


>> It's not a hobby.

For my friends who play drums in

a Broadway pit and feeds their

family of five doing so, band in

high school isn't a hobby, it

was the rest of their lives.

>> Of course, the career of

professional artists is a

notoriously rough one, but even

for those who don't go on to a

career in dance, music, theater,

or visual arts, practicing them

in high school is shown to have

far-reaching benefits -- higher

S.A.T. scores, improved creative

thinking, even higher rates of

civic engagement in the long


That's why New Jersey requires

high schools to offer arts

classes for school credit and a


>> Sure. My name's Bob Morrison,

chair of the New Jersey

Arts Education Partnership.


The New Jersey Student Learning

Standards really define what

every student should know and be

able to do in the

9 Content Areas in the state of

New Jersey.


So at the high-school level,

students should have the

opportunity to choose from all

four arts disciplines.

>> Theater, music, dance, and

visual arts -- the majority of

high schools in New Jersey

don't offer the required classes

in all four arts disciplines.

In fact, according to the

schools themselves, only 20%

of them do meet this


The exact numbers may actually

be lower.

In the state of New Jersey and

around the country, there is

somewhat of a myth that rich

communities have everything and

the poor communities have


And when we first did the first

census report back in 2007, we

found that that was completely

not the case.

That some of our more richest,

robust arts programs were in

some of our poorest communities

and poorer schools, and some of

our schools that had little to

no arts offerings were actually

residing in some of our

wealthiest communities.

What it told us was that when

you live in a community that

values the arts and if you have

a building leader or

superintendent that values the

arts, where there's a will,

there's a way.

>> This is Rahway.

The per capita income is just

under $30,000.

The high school only has a

population of about 1,000

students total, but their arts

program is a force to be

reckoned with, and it shows.

Last year, Rahway High School

earned five Rising Star

nominations, and the lead of

that show had actually

transferred to the district just

to take advantage of their

performing-arts classes.

>> The, you know, town has

always been extremely supportive

of the arts, and our

superintendent at the time also,

and they began talks about how

to increase the facility to

embrace the number of students

that we had involved in the


And so, the town actually voted

for a referendum, and they

totally redid the auditorium

and increased classroom sizes

for us.

We got a new band room, a new

chorus room, a dance studio.


>> This year, there's an extra

undercurrent of excitement in

the arts wing.

"Mary Poppins" will be the first

musical the school has produced

since recent Rahway graduate

Shanice Williams hit the big

time as Dorothy in NBC's

"The Wiz Live!"

>> Yeah, it definitely puts

a goal in my mind.

Like, people always come up to

me, be like, "Oh, you're the..."

Sort of, kind of.

People always come up to me.

They call me S.J. and stuff,

like Shanice Jr.

That's what that stands for.

They used to call me that my

freshman year -- Shanice Jr.

And, you know [laughs] I guess

it's a good thing, because,

like, she made it up there.

But also, like, you know, I'm my

own person, and, you know, I'd

like to make it as Najah.

So, you know, it's a good thing

and then it's kind of not.


>> I am on my 12th show in high


>> Union High School produces

three shows a year.

It's also one of, if not the

winningest school in

Rising Star Awards' history,

which may seem surprising.

Kids don't get dance class

in school.

There's a relatively humble

parental volunteer program,

and both the per capital income

and the budget for the musical

are average.

But Director James Mosser is


He asks Broadway contacts to

teach master classes and picks

up any secondhand equipment he


Through all kinds of fundraising

and strategic partnerships, the

powerhouse winds up with a

production budget of about


>> Our program is geared towards

the four-year student, so

hopefully, as they come in as

a freshman, they will get an

experience that they will not

duplicate again throughout their

four years here, so that they're

constantly working on different

material and different shows.


We offer classes all day long

in music, voice, theater.

>> I started sophomore year with

advanced musical theater, and

I've taken that my continuing

three years.

I also play a lot of

instruments, so I've been taking

band, wind ensemble,

AP music theory.

[ Chuckles ]

Um, sometimes.

Four hours is good.

>> We believe in making the kids

really, really self-sufficient,

so we teach kids every skill.

You know, every actor in the

show is building scenery.

It's all hands on deck.

We believe in everyone being

involved in everything.


>> I really thought it would be

her just then...

>> Serena, my dear, my friend,

my darling, my love.

>> Yeah?

>> The best part of your body is

not the back of your head, and

the entire show always sees the

back of your head.


>> Franklin High School has the

smallest budget for this big

show -- about $23,000 -- and the

per capita income is just over

the state average.

But what their program lacks in

funds, it makes up for in arts

classes and a hardcore


The school's received an

increasing number of

Rising Star nominations over the

last couple of years, but they

haven't been able to nail down

a trophy in that time...yet.

>> I'm all about the hard work.

I think a lot of people look at

high-school people, high-school

teenagers, or young people as,

"Oh, they can only do so much,"

but if you put a limit on them,

that's what they're going to do.

>> As much as it would be great

to hear, "That was beautiful,"

the second you hear, "That was

beautiful," you're like,

"It's beautiful?!

Guys, we did it!"

And so, you need this throughout

the whole process, to be brought

back and -- and to know that,

like, sure, there are glimpses

of it being wonderful, but it's

not all like that, so we need

to keep working.


>> We have a fairly strong

arts department, in general --

The band and the orchestra and

guitar program.

Not a lot of schools have

a guitar program.

In the art program, we have a

set design class, and they are

the one who actually build our


We have a dance program that has

two full-time dance teachers.

>> I have been told many times

by students that, even the ones

that go to studios, that, "My

studio doesn't teach me

modern dance.

I learned that from you.

I'm so happy that I got this

in my regular school day."

In order to take things to a

certain level, it's easier to

work with students that are


>> I-I try not to compare what

we do with someone else.

I just want us to do the best

show that we can do, and whether

that's with $15,000, $20,000,

I mean, it -- Money shouldn't

determine whether or not your

show was good.

What your kids do with that show

determines what's good.

As long as they work, the

product will be there.

If they work hard, they will

have a good product.


>> Of course, it teaches you.

Like, being in high school doing

this, it teaches you a lot of

lessons to prepare you for the

real world.

Like, it whips you into shape.

>> I had never been relied on in

that way before.

If you don't get off book and

you come up to rehearsal,

suddenly, all of your friends

can't do their job because

you're not keeping up.

>> Yesterday, they had rehearsal

from 2:30 to 5:00, and then had

a dance rehearsal from

6:00 to 9:30.

And then they are back here at

8:00 until 4:00.

So, they have to be really

dedicated to it.

>> I take AP and advanced


>> Football is the fall,

lacrosse in spring.

>> I take ballet, tap, jazz,


>> After school, I'm in

percussion ensemble and

concert ensemble.

>> Like, I do have a part-time


>> I mean, I like to be busy.

I don't work well when I'm not


>> And I also have violin

lessons on the side.

>> I don't know.

We'll see if I make it through.

>> It is, like, a lot to handle,

and it is hard to, like -- My

friends will be, "Hey, want to

go out on Saturday?"

"Oh, no, sorry, I can't.

I'm at rehearsal."

But I'd rather be at rehearsal

than going out and doing

whatever they do.

>> I've been here since 7:35,

and I'll be here till 11:00.

It is my 18th birthday.

All my friends are here.

I do have some other friends in

school, but I see them

throughout the day.

But my closest friends are here

with me, rehearsing with me,

celebrating with me, so it's

a good time.

Aw, fire drill?

[ Alarm beeping ]

Fourth time in the past two


>> Did you get any footage of

our fabulous fire...

The fire marshal was just here,

and he had us smoke again, and

we set off the alarm again.

And so now they're telling us

that we need a marshal at every

performance, so we're trying to

sort of work that out.

Um, but the immediate problem

with that is it ate up this

chunk of time, where we were

supposed to be doing other


So, we've probably lost about,

I don't know, three hours to

fire-related nonsense.

Um, so it's been -- it's been a

little tough.

We're behind, for sure.

>> Watch, watch, watch, watch!

>> Use your brake.

Use your brake.

>> Am I standing as well?


>> ♪ A chimney swept

♪ A secret kept

♪ Up here above the gables

♪ Another world

could be unfurled ♪

♪ It ain't just myths

and fables ♪

>> 5, 6, 7, 8.

>> ♪ Never need a reason

♪ Never need a rhyme

♪ Link your elbows

♪ Step in time

♪ Kick your knees up

♪ Step in time

>> I'm a little nervous,

you know?

>> In Vineland, Saturday morning

means more rehearsal.

The $30,000 budget is stretched

thin when licensing rights to

produce the show cost about

$5,000, and the price of flying

Mary Poppins and Bert is about

another $5,000.

But as any theater kid can tell

you, constraints breed


>> I just like the fact that I

can take a project and just roll

with it.

A lot of the props I make by

myself, or, like, we have to,

like, buy the supplies and


Like, I know, like, a lot of

schools, like, especially for

"Mary Poppins," with the kites,

they'll go out and they'll buy

20, 30 kites.

But the kites, I made them

myself with, like, some help

from, like, the cast members

when they weren't busy.

And just, like, that pride of,

"Hey, I did that."

>> Um, well, a couple weeks

back, I ended up...having mono.

So that was tough.

I missed a couple weeks of

school and a lot of rehearsals.

There's a -- There's a chance of

relapse always when you overwork


So, in the event that that does

happen, we need -- they wanted

to make sure that we would have

a backup plan.

>> The backup plan is this --

Best friends and bandmates

Thomas and Jacob have been

learning each other's roles

in addition to their own.

They'll perform their original

parts and switch roles for the


This means an understudy for

Thomas, but it also means

double the work for the guys.

>> We're really helping each

other out a lot.

It's a lot of, like, running

backstage, like, "Oh, man,

remind me, like, how does this

part go?"


>> Freshman year, I was like,

I'm gonna audition for

"Thoroughly Modern Millie."

I'm gonna do it.

And I didn't get in last year or

freshman year.

And I was like, you know what?

It's "Mary Poppins."

I'm gonna give it my all.

I picked my song a couple months

ahead, and I practiced, I

practiced, I practiced.

And I would practice in front of

my parents, I would practice in

front of my friends, and I

finally got here, and I was

like, "I can't do this," and

I was like, "Wait, I'm basically

blind without my glasses."

So I came out here, and I took

my glasses off, and I was like,

"I can't see anyone," so I sang.

[ Laughs ]

She -- She put the list up, and

the announcement came over, and

I was in marching band.

And I sat there and I was like,

"Oh, my God."

I started shaking.

So, I sprinted from marching

band, and I went to the center

of the building where the list

was, and I looked, and I saw

my name.

I didn't even care about what

part I was.

I just saw my name, and I

started jumping and screaming.

And I hugged my friends, and I

was like, "I finally got in!"

>> ♪ S-u-p-e-r

♪ C-a-l-i-f

♪ R-a-g-i-l

♪ I-s-t...

>> You're not doing your job!

And I am the only person who is

allowed to say this to you!

Now, I was told that there's

some antics going on backstage.

People telling people off,

people cursing people off.

Well, let me tell you something

right now.

I will give you the pink slip

if it continues.

>> It's the last rehearsal

before spring break, and

tensions are high.

Barring two more rehearsals over

vacation, it's the last chance

to nail it before tech week, and

then it's showtime, not to

mention a handful of actors

are missing.

They're on a class trip across

the country.

>> Today is the [laughs] what I

call the make-it-or-break-it


Last week's rehearsal, we were

facing missing Bert, Winifred,

a couple other people -- the

chairman and an ensemble member.

And a show is like a big puzzle,

and when you're missing a piece,

you really can't see the


And then there were just antics

going on backstage.

I was hearing of there was some

bullying going on backstage,

which was new for me because

I'd never heard that in theater.

So, we had a -- we had a family

moment, where we had to come

together and try to work out

some things.

You're not that great that you

feel as though you can go and

tell somebody off backstage.

I know it's tense!

I know it's tense!

I know it's tense!

But we need to pull together

and pull it together.

Um, and I think all is fine now,

but it's teenagers.

You know, they're -- One day,

they're one way, one day,

they're another way.

>> ♪ Never need a reason

♪ Never need a rhyme

>> Adding to the stress -- the

tour de force tap number

"Step in Time."

While dance classes are offered

in school, tap isn't one of

them, so many of these kids are

trying it for the first time.

Also, dance shoes are pricy and

the budget is tight, so some

kids have resorted to taping

quarters to the bottom of their

shoes to create a similar sound.

The team is also trying to add

their own feel to the show by

translating one character's text

into Spanish and adding a hint

of break dancing.

>> I normally take a deep breath

when I do a show after spring

break, but now that we have the

element of nine set pieces and

seven to eight dances, it's --

it poses a problem, because I

haven't seen them for 10 days.

What are they retaining?

What are they not retaining?

And going into tech week, it

gets a little scary.

>> The extra time that we might

need is not gonna magically

happen, so it's really just

gonna be up to us to rise to the

occasion, and, you know,

remember what's important and

why we love to do this.

And we need to bring that spirit

out, at this point, because I

feel like that's what's lacking.

But I know that it's gonna come.

I know these kids.

Have a wonderful spring break.

>> Thank you.


>> Slack, guys, slack.

Slack, slack, slack.

There you go.

And then two taps, then you take

a step downstage, okay?

[ Speaks indistinctly ]

>> It's a major rehearsal day

at Rahway High School.

Flying by Foy, the company

behind the flight effects for

more than 50 Broadway shows, is

here to get Mary Poppins and

Bert harnessed in and teach

them how to fly.

>> September to now, I have

probably done up to 15 to 20

"Mary Poppins."

It'd be aireography.

Yep. [ Laughs ]

Our main purpose is to make sure

that the whole entire process is

very safe and controlled, but

also fun at the same time.

And landing.

So, like, for example, if

someone's not on their mark,

it can -- it can make them swing

in ways they're not supposed to.

So, things like keep your --

keep your feet on the marks when

they get lifted is a very

important part of the process.

You're gonna go, put your hands

up nice and high.

Lean forward, touch my hands.

Kick your butt.

There you go.

Beautiful. Very nice.

See how that works?

>> [ Humming to the tune of

"Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh

(A Letter From Camp)" ]

>> ♪ Never need a reason

♪ Never need a rhyme

♪ Link your elbows

♪ Step in time

>> Accents are so hard to me.

[ Laughs ]

They're really so hard.

Like, I've never done a show

with an accent before, so

coming into here and doing

a British accent is just really

so, like, different.

It's just really different.

One day, we had this whole

entire day where we just walked

around and all talked in British

accents just to, you know,


Everybody was like, "Please,

shut up."

But, like, at the same time,

it's a good thing because we're

working on ourselves, you know?

>> I'm nervous about pretty much

any time I go onstage.

I think -- I don't know.

I tend to second-guess myself

about a lot of stuff, but I

think that's almost a good


Because then I'm very conscious

of what I'm doing, so I'm always

kind of focused and in it.

>> ♪ It's a jolly holiday with

you, Bert ♪

♪ Gentlemen like you are few

>> Growing up, this was my

favorite movie, and, you know,

my favorite character was always

Bert because of his charisma and

his energy, and he just seemed

so, like, fun.

And that's why, when I found out

that I got to play it, I was

just like, "Ah, this is crazy."

[ Mid-tempo music playing ]

I was kind of, like, born

knowing that I wanted to do


You know, I got put in baseball

as a little kid and was in the

outfield doing cartwheels and

picking dandelions, and they

were like, "Oh, my God."

Like, "Get up! Get up!"

And I was like, "No!"

So, you know, I think the fact

that I get to do this at this

stage of my life, and the fact

that -- thanks to Mrs. Poyner

and Mr. Mallette and all the

other teachers here -- I've

gotten such a good experience.

I have so many people that

support me, that care about me,

and that makes it so much easier

to play roles.

You know what I mean?

>> Those people aren't just

fellow students and teachers.

At this weeknight rehearsal, a

small army of parents set up a

themed concession stand,

decorate the lobby, and finish

up costumes.

>> I started making costumes

back in...second week of


And will go until opening night.

This one probably has about 400


Yeah, with all the different

kids and all the different

changes -- costume changes.

>> We have a huge costume crew,

a huge makeup crew, and the kids

are really empowered to run the


>> Not many places are they

learning to do something with

their hands, you know, besides

type on a keyboard or

touchscreen or something to

that effect.

But, you know, somebody's got to

build the houses tomorrow.

We have 26 set changes, and it's

all the students doing all the

running crew.

So we choreograph them as much

as we choreograph the actors out


I always tell my running crew,

"It's just as important that you

guys are on your mark and know

your lines, so to speak."

>> Ben, the contractor-turned-

tech-director, is everywhere,

trying to make sure the show

runs like a well-oiled machine.

>> The thing that I'm most

impressed with with these young

men and women is they don't miss

the opportunity to say

"Thank you."

I was watching them do this

number, and [chuckles] I was

choking back the tears.

I was so proud of those kids.

They just work so hard, and they

just strive.

And the directors and the

choreographer lady and everybody

just strives to just bring out

every iota of these young men

and women's potential, and they

were nailing it.

>> A few people this year

actually decided to come out for

the play that haven't been in

music or drama or anything


>> In her first year as

director, Laura Manziano is

focusing on building


And just like she thought,

bringing in new recruits, like

school quarterback Nick Couzzi,

opened the door for others to

try something new.

>> We have a friend,

Nick Couzzi, and he got us into

it, so...

>> And it's also his first year.

>> It's his first year, too.

>> So he was our inspiration,

our muse.

[ Laughter ]

>> I really like it.

It's a whole community thing.

We have the robotics club doing

all the magic behind the scenes,

and we have set crew with all

the artists and builders, and

it's great.

>> I didn't know what it was

gonna be like, but to be honest,

like, this is one of the best

groups of people I've ever met

in my life.

Like, they kind of accepted me

in a way I didn't think they

would, so it's kind of --

Like, a football team is a

family, but these guys are a

family, too.

>> You guys, break a leg.

>> 5, 6, 7, 8.

>> ♪ Opening night

♪ Opening night

>> ♪ Zuh, zee, zee, zee

♪ Zuh, zay, zay, zay

♪ Zuh, zai, zai, zai, zai

[ Mid-tempo rock music plays ]

>> Whoo!

>> Ahh!

[ Students cheering ]

>> ♪ Laughing is contagious,

and it is so outrageous, and ♪

♪ A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J,

K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S,

T... ♪

>> Let me see the tongue!

>> ♪ A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I,

J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T,

U, V, W, X, Y, Z ♪

>> Energy!

>> ♪ A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I,

J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T,

U, V, W, X, Y, Z ♪

>> Chatterbox faces!

>> ♪ A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I,

J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T,

U, V, W, X, Y, Z ♪

[ Indistinct conversations ]

>> Do not settle for less than

being great if you are capable

of that, and you are.

So go out tonight, decide to be

great, and be grateful for those

that have helped you to get


I love you.

Have a great show.

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> I just keep looking at the

clock, and it's like, we have

five minutes to, like, the show.

So, it's like -- I think it's

my nerves.

But I don't want my nerves to

get the best of me or anything,

so I'm gonna just, you know, go

out there and do everything that

I possibly can.

So, yeah, I'll do my best.

[ Laughs ]

It's like everybody's depending

on me, almost, but it's fine.

[ Chuckles ]

♪ Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious ♪

♪ Even though the sound of it

is something quite atrocious ♪

♪ If you say it loud enough,

you'll always sound precocious ♪

>> I get so anxiety-ridden

because I can't fix it.

[ Laughs ]

So it's easier to be behind the

glass, and if they falter,

I know they will recover, but I

can't watch it, so I then walk


And I come back when I know

they're on steady feet again.

[ Mid-tempo music playing,

tap shoes clicking ]

>> Cheerio, Bert!

Keep an eye on them for me!

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ All cheering ]

>> [ Chanting ] Hey! Hey! Hey!

>> Mary Poppins!

>> It's just a rush of


Like, we're just so, like...

I can't even stay still, you


I'm jumping, everything.

It's just really exciting

'cause we just did an amazing


We never really had an audience

before, so they were laughing at

moments that we never really,

like, expected people to laugh


So it was good.

>> It went great. It went great.

Itis emotional, because, you

know, as a teacher, sometimes

you're more than just a teacher.

You're a mentor, you're a

parent, and, you know, they all

have their own stories.

For one kid, you know, it's

about getting from the fourth

line to the third line, and

that's been a large journey.

For other kids, it's being

freshman year to not making the

show to now being a senior and

being in a lead role, so I feel

like a huge cheerleader.

You know, I've been cheering for

them, and to see them succeed --

in whatever it is, you know,

their accomplishment is tonight,

and it's very vast and

different -- it just...

I'm filled with pride.

[ Song ends ]

[ Cheers and applause ]


>> ♪ Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious ♪

♪ If you say it softly, the

effect can be hypnotious ♪

>> ♪ Check your breath before

you speak in case it's

halitocious ♪

>> Ugh!

♪ Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious ♪


>> I'm having the time of my


We've been here, like, six days

a week.

So we've all been really

putting in 110%.

I think this is the hardest

we've all ever worked, and we're

really proud of what we have.

>> ♪ Over the rooftops, step in

time ♪

♪ Over the rooftops, step in

time ♪

♪ Never need a reason, never

need a rhyme ♪

>> ♪ Over the rooftops, step in

time! ♪

[ Mid-tempo music plays ]

[ Tap shoes clicking ]

I've been feeling fantastic.

I've been sick, but -- you know,

from before, which is why we're

double-cast -- but just, when I

get out there for these shows

and I see the audience, I feel


I have my Gatorade and my

iced tea and my water backstage.

I'm drinking up.

So it keeps me going, but once

I get out there, I'm drenched in

sweat afterwards, and I love

every second of it.

>> ♪ If you reach for the stars,

all you get are the stars ♪

♪ But we've found a whole new

spin ♪

♪ If you reach for the heavens,

you get the stars thrown in ♪

♪ Anything can happen if you let

it ♪

>> I think it's been going


The audience has really loved


The kids are just the most

energetic I've ever seen them.

They're, like, thriving.

I think everything was a

struggle with this show.

Every little detail was a


And it was, like, trying to get

each little detail to work, and

then once it all came together,

it was like, "Oh, my God, that


[ Indistinct conversations ]

>> She does practice every

single day, even when she's



Dancing, singing, playing the


She chooses to do the arts, and,

I mean, I told her, "Whatever

you plan to do, make sure you

give it your best."

It paid off.

Good job.

>> Thank you.

>> Mwah!

>> Mm.

>> I do, but the students do


[ Laughs ]

We don't like to tell them,

but, um...

they're coming tomorrow.

[ Chuckles ]

All four.

>> I'm definitely doing this

next year.

I'm going to. I want to.

It doesn't matter what the

musical is.

I want to be a part of this --

this organized chaos.

I love it. [ Laughs ]

>> Everything has been really


They've pulled together, and

they realized that they really

can't put on this show without

each other.

I want you to go up to five

people right now, and I want you

to write something about that


They won't have an idea of what

you're writing, because you're

not gonna tell them what you're


But you're going to write

something that reminds you of

that person.

God willing, it won't be


But, hopefully, it's something

really nice.


I think going into it -- going

into tech week -- it was, "Me,

me, me, me, me," and then they

realized that we can't do a

musical on us.

It needs to be a family, and I

think they realized that and

they brought that together.

We have...one minute to places.

[ Indistinct shouting ]

See you on the other side!

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> ♪ I'm practically perfect

from head to toe ♪

♪ If I had a fault, it would

never dare to show ♪

♪ I'm so practically perfect in

every way ♪

It's the homestretch now, but,

you know, we're "Keep on keepin'


Spring break before tech week

was very, very stressful.

I know, just, like, for me

personally, going home and not

going to rehearsal every day

and not continuing --

I would go out and do things

with my friends, and the whole

time, I'm just standing there

like, "Tombé pas de bourrée,'

and they're like, "What are you


I'm like, "I'm onstage right

now, guys.

Just ignore it."

>> Georgie Banks! Su padre!

He used to give his nanny the

slip and come into my shop here

in secret.

>> ♪ The Druids could have

carved it on their mighty

monoliths ♪

>> ♪ The ancient Greeks,

I'm certain, would have used it

in their myths ♪

>> ♪ I'm sure the Roman Empire

only entered the abyss ♪

♪ Because those Latin scholars

never heard a word like this ♪

>> ♪ Supercali...

>> This show is really gonna

stay with me.

It's gonna have a special place


So it kind of hit me like a Mac

truck when everything came

together all fancified, with

the lights and the colors, and

I was blown away.

I was so blown away.

I'm just in awe over what can

happen when all these elements

come together.

>> Here we go! Whoo!

[ Mid-tempo music playing ]

[ Musical flourish ]

[ Tap shoes clicking ]

[ Percussion playing ]

[ Indistinct shouting ]

>> I said to the person next to

me, who was watching it for the

first time -- I said, "Can you


I think about maybe three of

them actually had tap


I actually don't want to put it


I actually want us to sell out

so much that we have to turn

people away and add another


>> The Rising Star committee

came last week on our opening


So they came Friday night,

Saturday night, and two judges

came on Sunday.

Yeah, the kids know.

We talked about it.

And I told them not to play up

to it -- "We're just gonna do

what we do" -- and we did what

we did.

And I think we turned out a

really good product.

[ Instruments tuning ]


>> Just tell a story.

Have a wonderful time.

Enjoy every moment.

It's always "Last show, best


[ Indistinct conversations ]

>> Guys, places for Act I,

Scene I!

>> Thank you!


>> I mean, it's gonna be sad to,

like, leave this group of

awesome people, but I'm kind of

relieved, in a way.

You know, it's a beast of a


♪ Brimstone and treacle

>> ♪ Brimstone and treacle

>> ♪ Brimstone and treacle

♪ Won't wooooork

[ Cheers and applause ]


>> ♪ Over the rooftop, step in

time ♪

♪ Over the rooftop, step in

time ♪

♪ Never need a reason, never

need a rhyme ♪

>> ♪ Over the rooftop, step in

time! ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> ♪ Step, step

♪ Step, step

♪ Step, step, step, step

♪ Step, step, step, step, step,

step, step ♪

♪ Step in time

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> Thank you.


>> We had kind of a rocky final

dress rehearsal, but everything

came together.

I think, you know, we've been

doing this -- you know, teaching

them the skills and going over

the music and the dances and

the acting and the moments for

so long, and sometimes it just


And then everything falls into


>> You know, when Mary Poppins

is flying and Sean's on the

ceiling, how does that happen in

a high-school production?

When you're on a sport team,

which our other son is, you

know, you practice every day and

you get to maybe play 30 games.

They practice every day just as

hard, just as long, and get to

perform five times.

And so it's just so great to

see the entire community come --

I mean, a sold-out show every


>> You know, sometimes you go to

shows and you think, "If only

somebody had told them to cheat

out or to be bigger or to take a

moment there or to, you

know, to snap their arms or, you

know, really be fully engaged,

they would've done it."

I mean, normally, kids -- or

people -- will only do as much

as you ask, and usually a little


So you always have to ask for


>> All that is good...

>> All that is good...

>> ...and accomplished in the


>> ...and accomplished in the


>> ...takes work!

>> ...takes work!

>> Takes work!

>> Takes work!

>> Takes work!

>> Takes work!


>> Nice!

>> Two tickets?!

>> Don't change anything.

Don't do anything differently.

>> We've got to go out there and

have a killer show -- better

than all the other ones


So, there you go.

[ Laughter ]


>> ♪ When Mary holds your hand,

you feel so grand ♪

♪ Your heart starts beating like

a big brass band ♪

♪ Kick your knees up,

step in time ♪

♪ Kick your knees up,

step in time ♪

♪ Never need a reason, never

need a rhyme ♪

♪ Kick your knees up,

step in time ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

♪ Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> [ Sobs ]

>> Oh, I cry the whole time.

There are so many moments in

this show where I just well up

with tears because it's such a

beautiful moment, and I'm so

proud of them.

>> It's definitely hard work.

It's taught me perseverance and

just putting myself out there to

try new things.

A lot of times, if I try random

things at rehearsal, the

directors will be like, "I

like that," or "Don't do that


>> Yeah, they came the first


Every single second I was

onstage, they would yell my

name -- "Couzzi!"

Like that.

They thought it was really cool.

They were actually pretty proud

of me that I did that.

They were happy that I kind of

stepped out of what normal

boundaries of high school was.

>> There was such a positive

response from everyone who came


The community really came out,

the parents helped.

I mean, it was overwhelmingly


I hope we took a big -- a big

step in the cool direction.

>> I want you to think about the

things that you've learned over

this entire process.

I want you to think about the

things you've learned over your

career here.

We're all at different places in

our lives, we're all at

different places in our process.

For some of you, this is the

very first time you've ever been

on the UHSPAC stage, and for

others, it's your last.

Always remember that when you

come back here, you have a

family and people that are

going to take care of you.

We always do shows here,

and you're always welcome to

come and see them, to help with

them, to be a part of them.

And this experience would not

have been the same without any

one of you here.

>> I'm alive, I'm aware,

and I feel great.

I'm alive, I'm aware,

and I feel great.

>> Let's go!

>> I'm alive, I'm aware,

and I feel great!

>> I think the thing that we

always try to do here is give

them an experience.

And sometimes, when you get to

sit backstage and you see them

fly across the stage or do

something that hopefully they'll

take with them forever, that's

really what it's about.

I'm sorry-- I'm a little


[ Laughs ]

I don't normally get emotionally

compromised, but...

You know, like, I had that for

me when I was in high school,

and I had some fantastic

teachers, and through college,

too, you know, who always made

sure that everything that we did

was an experience.

And, you know, it's passing

that torch on to the next


And hopefully, someday these

guys will do the same for

somebody else.

>> ♪ Cherry Tree Lane

♪ As sweet as a song, but the

nannies who come here, they

don't stay for long ♪

♪ Chim chimney

♪ Chim chim cheree chim cheroo

[ Applause ]

>> We had lots of scenery that

was a problem at one point, as

everyone was sort of getting

their feet wet with it, and

now it's pretty cool to see

things get to go together.


We ended up having to hire a

fireman to be at every

performance, and, you know, the

Union fire department is pretty


The guys are really nice, they

listened to us, they understand

what's going on.

Ironically, it never went off.


So some sort of deity is just

floating around, poking fun at


[ Mid-tempo music plays ]

>> Feels different knowing that

I'm not going to perform on that

stage again.

I think that we've definitely

touched people's lives in the


>> ♪ Feed the birds,

tuppence a bag ♪

♪ Tuppence, tuppence,

tuppence a bag ♪

>> It was a little hard to get

those last, final words out

singing onstage.

A little bit of crying, all that

good stuff.

>> ♪ Go on, chase your dreams,

you won't regret it ♪

♪ Anything can happen

♪ Anything can happen

♪ Anything can happen

if you let it ♪

[ Cheers and applause ]


>> May 9th, I think, is

Rising Star nomination day.

So we have things in between,

but we'll sort of be waiting

and watching and hoping,


>> My friend's just like, "You

got nominated."

I was like, "What?!"

I legit ran up the stairs and

ran back down.

It was actually crazy.

And then, yeah, I kind of got

yelled at a little bit, but,

hey, whatever.

[ Laughs ]

>> When they said that I got

nominated, I felt like I was

nominated for a Tony or


>> I won the Paper Mill

Playhouse Rising Star Award for

"Hello, Dolly!"

I played Dolly Levi in

"Hello, Dolly!", but up the

octave 'cause I'm a soprano.

You know, Carol Channing is

like, you know...

♪ "I'm gonna raise the roof,

I'm gonna carry" ♪

and I was like, [ High-pitched ]

♪ "I'm gonna raise the roof,

I'm gonna carry" ♪

It was so ridiculous.

And yet somehow, they gave me

this award.

I think it was just, like,

"Please have this, 'cause we

feel so bad for you."

>> And suddenly, we were able to

put theater awards next to

football trophies in the

hallways and really create a


>> It was extremely validating.

>> I cried a little bit.

Just a little bit. [ Laughs ]

It's so exciting.

>> They've already voted and

stuff, so now it's just about...

>> Having fun.

>> And enjoying the moment.

>> Oh, I feel like everybody's

just amazing here.

The talent is crazy.

>> Oh, my God.

>> I love getting to watch the

other schools perform.

At the rehearsal today, we got

to see all the hard work and

know that people actually really

care about this.

And it's so encouraging.

>> Do you guys get nervous at


>> Yes.

>> Oh, yeah.

>> Theater's competitive.

You know, that's what it is.

But that's what makes you


>> Right.

>> I mean, we're better because

we want to be as good as Union.

We want to raise the bar.

>> Absolutely.

We want to be as good as Summit.

And I think it motivates our

kids, too, to know that there's

somebody else out there that's

producing the same level of


>> It's been an outstanding year

for nominees at 53 high schools

around the state of New Jersey.

The Rising Star Awards season

began back in January, when the

first of 87 productions hit the


>> And the 2016 Rising Star for

Outstanding Overall Production

of a Musical goes to...

[ Drumroll ]

...Summit High School,

"Mary Poppins"!

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ "Supercalifragilistic-

expialidocious" plays ]

>> Wow!

Oh, my goodness.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

And I want to say

congratulations to everybody out

here -- my colleagues, all you

students, parents -- because we

have the best job in the world.

We get to tell stories.

We get to work with these

fabulous people every day.

When I was 15 year old, I knew I

wanted to teach high school

theater, and I've never doubted


And, as Rodgers and Hammerstein

tell us, "When you become a

teacher, by your pupils you'll

be taught."

And that's what happens to us

every day.

Thank you so much.

[ Cheers and applause ]


>> To be honest, I think I

blacked out a little bit.

I couldn't be more happy for

everyone that I've gotten to

work with.


>> Yeah, like, everybody wants

to win, of course, but then,

like, you also feel good for her

because she's very talented.

And then I was talking to

Shanice, and she was giving me

advice like, "Oh, yeah," she had

lost or whatever, too, but,

like, you still kind of win.


>> This is -- Wow.


This is awesome.

Better than the Tonys.

For me. [ Laughs ]


>> Right.

You want to know what show we're

doing next year?

I don't know yet.

>> No idea.

All the time.

>> ♪ I wish I were cool

♪ I wish I were rock and roll

♪ I wish I were Jewel

♪ Jewel

♪ Or Alanis Morissette

♪ Maybe I should learn to play

guitar ♪

♪ But I'm too busy...

>> Made possible by the

Jean Dubinsky Appleton Estate.


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