It has been a magnificent thing to watch the young adults of Haldane High School act, sing and dance over the past few years. In December 2013, a time when Philipstown was in mourning, the students gathered themselves to present a flawless performance of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, a poignant story of death and dying in small town America.
The next year, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was performed on a sparse set with disturbing, thought-provoking imagery enhanced by jarring lighting effects and powerful, startling background music. Every actor in that production delivered a memorable performance, captivating those in attendance from start to finish and leaving them contemplating the message of the play for days afterward.
Last autumn, Haldane Drama presented Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, a comedy-drama with a wickedly complex plot line that our student actors executed precisely, hitting their marks and delighting the audience.
The dark dramas of the fall gave way each spring to the lightness and silliness of spectacular musicals, including Cole Porter’s Anything Goes and Gershwin’s Crazy for You, where fabulous singing and acting was on display. Both featured unforgettable chorus lines of tap dancers, mesmerizing the audience, which responded with thunderous applause. The spring 2015 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance was a triumph and most of us left the theater humming the tune, “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.”
And now this past weekend’s musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. This is a musical most high schools would not dare produce and speaks to the ambition of Haldane’s drama students and their extraordinarily talented director, Martha Mechalakos. The actors were more than up to the challenge, crisply delivering their lines in Italian, Irish and British accents. The witty, rapid-fire song lyrics came through loud and clear; we know because each exchange brought laughter!
We have come full circle with Sweeney Todd, more opera than musical, more darkness than lightness and simply more talent on and behind the stage than any small high school could possibly expect. To have a school district in the top tier of academics, sports and the arts doesn’t happen by accident. The list of players responsible for this achievement is as long as the names of all of you who live and work in Philipstown. Go ahead, take a bow, you deserve a standing ovation too.
William and Mary Rice, Nelsonville