Seaford Middle School’s drama club will roll out the red carpet for its annual school play — with the much-anticipated performance of “The Little Mermaid Jr.” — on March 31 and April 1.
This marks the second year in a row that students will be able to perform a play on stage since the disruptions caused by Covid. After last year’s performance of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” the cast has grown from 27 to more than 40, with another 20 working on the stage group.
“It’s been fun because you get to hang out with a lot of people,” seventh-grader Natalie Gonzalez said.
Auditions began at the end of November and music rehearsals were first conducted in December, with the cast starting to dive into rehearsals for all the scenes in January.
“A lot of the kids are back in the cast for a second year, so they have an idea of how I work and what to expect,” Barbara Sherwin, the play and drama club director, said. “We start to get into a groove, and they start to know what is expected and the responsibilities of following the schedule, knowing your lines, going over the music, and
handing in things on time.”
Sherwin, who has been with the school district for 23 years, began directing school shows back in the early 2000s. She also played the role of musical director and operated the soundboard. In addition, Sherwin taught students music and helped with the staging, returning to the director’s role two years ago.
Sherwin also is the band director for the seventh and eighth-grade, and the entire middle school music department is involved in the production of the play.
The production crew includes Nicholas Coacci, who is the musical director; Matthew Dolan and Daniel Kruger, stage managers; Amanda Ferguson, vocals; and Carly Spadafora, a social studies teacher who helps with staging and costumes.
Sherwin takes on much of the choreography and enlists the help of some former students, who now attend high school.
“I also am basically the producer, so I take care of putting together the program and all the fundraising, T-shirts, and tickets,” Sherwin said. “The fundraising, ticket sales, and boosters are what sustains us year-to-year to be able to put the production together.”
With a small cast, Sherwin and her crew undergo a lot of preparation for the play. In the last week leading up to the show, the students complete four days of dress rehearsals with a full set of lights, scenery, costumes, and all the sound systems so they can get used to the bright lights and the big stage.
“Sometimes it’s hard because you have to remember what scenes go to what song,” said seventh-grader Kathy Strong, who has nine scenes in the upcoming production. “It’s not just about what your lines are, you have to remember when you come on and how you come on, which can get hard to remember.”
For Sherwin, juggling many roles can be tricky, but theater has been her passion since she was a teen.
“The most difficult part is all the little pieces,” Sherwin said. “When you make a schedule, and the kids can’t come or put together all the little things like the T-shirts. All the little details become very overwhelming very quickly, and all this happens within the last couple of weeks.”
Sherwin said the students have expressed excitement since day one of rehearsals and many of them are getting their first experience in a live production.
“It’s a fun process because you get to be a whole different person than you are at school,” sixth-grader Anne Pokalsky said.
“I really love ‘The Little Mermaid,’ it’s like my favorite Disney movie, so I’m hoping we do a great job,” eighth-grader Ava Coons added.
Despite the expected ups and downs, Sherwin said she is excited to give students another opportunity to be social.
“They weren’t able to do this back when we were all home or when we were remote or when we were stuck in our little classrooms,” she said. “They couldn’t get in and be with each other and interact with each other, and this gives them that team spirit. This is a huge team, and every kid has a very important role. I prep them to hopefully go on to high school and be able to do shows up there as well.”