NEW CASTLE —
At Neshannock High School, drama is serious business.
The spring musical is one of THE events of the year at Neshannock, and this weekend’s production of “The Pajama Game” will be no exception.
The musical, which opens tomorrow night in the high school auditorium, promises to pack seats and bring down the house with its big cast, rollicking dance numbers and high production values. Thirty-nine students will pack the stage to tell this unique love story of star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a labor strike, and what each side will do to win the dispute over a 7 1/2 percent raise.
For drama director and high school English teacher Michael Cavalier, “The Pajama Game” is a landmark production. This show marks the beginning of his third decade as both teacher and drama director at the school. It is the 21st show he has directed, as well as his 21st year teaching.
In addition to his position at Neshannock, Cavalier is probably best known for his work at the New Castle Playhouse, where he is an audience favorite, directing at least one full-blown major musical a season. Later this year, he will helm the classic “State Fair.”
“The Pajama Game” is special to Cavalier for more than just marking his 21st show, “It was the first show I did in my first year at Neshannock, and it is only the second repeat show we’ve done in 21 years,” he said.
More than half the students in the show, — 20 out of 39 — are seniors, and Cavalier said they were the reason he chose to revive “The Pajama Game”.
“They are a great group of kids. They are all very close. They all get along so well,” he said. “I did this show for the seniors.
“It uses a lot of kids. There is a lot of dancing. I knew they all could be in it. It’s just a fun show.”
Among the seniors gracing the stage in “The Pajama Game” are a host of stage veterans. Gabriella Giangiuli, who plays Gladys, is in her fifth show at Neshannock, including one while she was in just fifth grade. She also has taken a couple of turns on the stage of New Castle Playhouse.
“Gladys is Mr. Hassler’s (the plant manager) secretary,” Giangiuli explained. “She is dating Heinzy. She is a flirt, but she is geeky and nerdy. Gladys thinks she’s sexy, but she’s not.
“Her big number is ‘The Jealousy Ballet.’ She dances with a lot of characters as suitors as Heinzy looks on. She is very innocent, but she doesn’t seem that way. She is very fun to play.”
Joining Giangiuli is stage veteran Carly Edman. She has participated in all four musicals in her four years at Neshannock, as well as “too many shows at the Playhouse to mention. I have been doing shows there since I was 5.”
It only makes sense that she would have theater in her blood — Carly is the daughter of Playhouse veteran stage actor and perennial fan favorite Neil Edman.
In “Pajama Game,” the younger Edman plays Babe Williams, the strong-willed, no-nonsense head of the union grievance committee.
“She is very independent and headstrong,” Edman said. “Then the new boss comes to town. She falls in love, and things get a little crazy.
“In the end, they get the raise. She gets her boyfriend. It all works out. This is a very sweet, cute show. Fun for the entire family.”
Christian Na also has been a part of all four shows while at Neshannock. Na plays factory executive Heinzy.
“He is a strange man,” Na explained. “Heinzy is in love with and very jealous over Gladys. He even sings a song about how he tries not to be jealous, but she only makes it worse and he can’t help himself.”
For Grant Weaver, he got dragged into doing his first musical against his better judgment. That was two years ago. Now participating in his third show at Neshannock, Weaver says getting involved in the musicals was “the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
Weaver plays the union president.
“He is a real pig. He is married, but his wife is never seen in the show,” Weaver said. “He hits on half the cast. He thinks he’s a real ladies man, but he’s not; he’s really just totally inappropriate.
“I’ve always just been in the chorus before. This is my first big role in a show, and I am really enjoying the part.”
All the seniors admit that there is a certain bittersweet element to their final show at Neshannock. They agree that this will be the thing they will miss the most about their high school experience.
But as their time at Neshannock comes to a close, they promise that “The Pajama Game” will be one final production to bring down the house — a final curtain they will never forget.
NEW CASTLE —
At Neshannock High School, drama is serious business.
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