Shelton High drama club returns to the stage

SHELTON — Thirteen months ago, sets were nearly built, costumes were being chosen and the high school drama club was fine-tuning its coming spring production.

Then it all stopped.

“My favorite time of year … all taken away,” a tearful Brook Doolan said this last week as she recalled the pandemic canceling the award-winning club’s annual spring performance last March.

“This is a place where we all come together, we’re a family,” Doolan said, as she stood in front of the SHS stage Thursday, “and now we were torn apart. It was so unfair. We were so close to performing. The set was half built, we were talking about costumes, then it all just stopped.”

But joy prevailed when the drama club, led by longtime advisor Joe Sedlock, learned the school administration had approved going ahead with a spring show to be held May 6-8 on the school’s stage.

“I was in class when found out it was happening,” Doolan recalled. “I looked at my phone, I saw it was happening and I just screamed. I was crying. We were all so emotional, so excited, to perform together again is so special.”

Doolan is among 17 seniors — 45 club members overall — who will be performing in a musical revue version of the club’s popular Adaptations production, which is normally held in January. Adaptations is a fundraiser for what ordinarily would be the major spring production — the last one was “Chicago,” which won the club the Sondheim Award.

“I’ve always dreamed out this,” senior Casey An said about having her special moment on the SHS stage.

“It is coming full circle for me … I’m so excited,” she added.

An began her theater work in eighth grade with a first performance on the SHS stage. This show will be her first time under the spotlight as a high school performer. An had been a distance learner for the first half of the year but returned to in-class learning solely because of her desire to perform one final time at SHS, she said.

“Last year was extremely difficult,” An said about the 2020 cancellation. “A lot of my friends were seniors last year, and they didn’t get their chance at a spring show. That was upsetting to me personally. Then I was nervous for ours. Maybe I won’t have that experience of being on this stage at all.

“I personally love theater,” she said. “It helps boost my confidence. The thought of losing that scared me. I am so excited to be back.”

Sedlock himself remains emotional about last year’s group not having that final special moment on the SHS stage.

“I still have a hard time talking about it,” Sedlock said. “I was with those kids for four years. This is what they work for, and all of a sudden, they have nothing. It was just sad … devastating for the kids.”

Megan McCarthy, a senior, said she is still in shock as she watched last year’s theater season “just crash and burn.

“We had been working so hard, it was going to be a great show, then we weren’t able to do anything,” McCarthy said. “Theater is all I do, some kids have sports, other clubs, I have theater. It was really bad. I was so excited when I caught wind we might do something. Then I found out … it was so surreal.”

In the past year, club enrollment also dropped, as some students chose not to participate while others were distance learners and unable to be part of extracurricular activities. What had been a club of some 150 is now at 45, but Sedlock sees a group with incredible talent that will help inspire others to join, he said.

"We couldn’t do the usual spring musical this year, so we are doing Adaptations,” Sedlock said. “This is our new version of Adaptations this year. It’s more of a musical revue so the kids would have the opportunity to have something. They deserve this.”

There will be three groups performing separately: seniors, juniors and a combined freshmen/sophomore team taking the stage. The directors developed a theme for each group, and then the songs and choreography were chosen for their relationship to the theme.

As a safety precaution, there will be no costume changes.

The directors are Kayci Kekacs, Kat Tuhill and Ainsley Lougal for the freshmen/sophomore group; Lily Sierra, Molly Schlanghe and Allison Schalange for the juniors; and Chelsea Rodrigues and Anthony and Micheal Tartaglia for the seniors.

“The talent in this town is phenomenal,” Sedlock said. “This is going to be an incredible show.”

Senior Sierra Boccuzzi, in theater since seventh grade, said finishing with this performance, even one that is scaled back from previous years, is an important way for the theater group to come together one last time.

“It’s a big deal … I’m so excited, so really, really happy,” Boccuzzi said. “And for the freshmen to see us do it, to know that they want to do it, is incredible. For the parents and our friends, to watch us, to see how we have improved is great. I am happy they get to see us have a closing performance.”

Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the high school in advance or at the door the night of the shows. The show will be at 7 p.m. each night. Masks and social distancing will be required for performers and spectators.