Wantagh Drama Club set to perform ‘Jekyll and Hyde’


A gloomy London fog will roll through Wantagh this month, when the high school Drama Club presents a frighteningly entertaining musical performance of “Jekyll and Hyde.”

The show will take place in the school’s theater April 12-14, when audience members will be treated to the gothic tale of Dr. Jekyll, a respected scientist who develops a potion that transforms him into the malevolent Mr. Hyde.

Kimberly Davis, the musical’s director, said that students have been rehearsing for the show since December, and have brought dedication and passion to their roles.

“We just have such a superbly talented group of students,” Davis said. “We have the perfect cast for our show, and we really want to challenge them.”

The musical, based on the iconic gothic horror novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, is rarely performed in schools, Davis said. The songs, she explained, are vocally demanding, requiring the performers to hit unusually high pitches. To help with rehearsals, understudies were cast for all the lead roles.

While the show is difficult to perform, Davis said she has been impressed with the students’ progress throughout the rehearsals. “We just really wanted to give them a big challenge, and they have risen to that challenge,” she said. “I’m really, really proud of the work they have done.”

Davis has directed plays at the middle school since 2005, and for the past four years she has directed the high school Drama Club, so she has known most of the seniors in “Jekyll and Hyde” since they were in sixth grade. She said she loves seeing how far they have come.

“It’s emotional for me to watch and see how much they’ve grown,” she said, “and watching them come to life on stage and seeing them get to do what they love to do.”

Sameerah Cassidy, vocal director of the Drama Club for the past five years, said that the student cast members have been working hard on the show’s challenging musical numbers, and added that she was amazed to see how much their theater skills have developed in the years she’s known them.

“It’s incredible,” Cassidy said of the rehearsals. “We’re very fortunate here in Wantagh to have incredible talent in our students, but to see their growth, and to see how they’ve developed into musicians and performers, has just really been an amazing experience.”

Everything from the lighting, sound and stage crews to the pit orchestra is made up of students, and the stage crew, Davis said, has been passionate about the set designs, which were inspired by the Victorian architecture that students in the school’s performing arts program saw when they took a trip to London in February.

Senior Anthony Lerro, who has performed in theater since he was in fifth grade, plays the lead role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Playing a dual role is a new experience, Lerro said, but he added that Davis has given the student performers freedom to play the characters in a way that feels authentic to them.

“We get the opportunity to evolve in terms of where we take the character’s line delivery and the relationships between other characters,” Lerro explained.

Senior Madelyn Hartmann plays Emma Carew, Dr. Jekyll’s fiancée, whom she describes as an upper-class woman with an open mind — which, Hartmann said, goes against the social norms of her Victorian London peers. Hartmann has had Davis as a theater director since middle school, and said she has enjoyed the freedom to express characters through their own perspective, which makes performances more authentic.

For Hartmann, the musical will be a bittersweet experience, because it will be her last before she graduates.

“It’s been an honor to work with such a good cast,” she said. “Everyone here is so dedicated, and put so much into all their parts.”

In his first theater performance since fifth grade, senior Shawn Bailey plays Sir Danvers Carew, Emma’s father. Bailey said he read Stevenson’s book and watched other actors’ performances of his character online to prepare for the role.

“The cast is amazing, especially for my first year,” he said. “They’ve been open-arms this whole time.”

Davis, Bailey said, is understanding when students try to learn a character. She provides feedback, and allows for improvisations in performances to fit what the students feel would be authentic to the scene. Bailey said he believed “Jekyll and Hyde” would be one of the Theater Club’s finest performances.

“Come to the show,” he said. “It’s going to be phenomenal. I think it’s going to be one of Wantagh’s best shows.”

The musical has adult themes — blood and violence — and Davis cautioned theatergoers not to bring elementary school-age children.

For more information, contact the club’s business manager, Courtney Prestianni, at prestianniC@wantaghschools.org. Tickets can be purchased at seatyourself.biz/wantaghms.