In just about six weeks of rehearsals — with vacation, bad weather and delays caused by the initial objection by some residents to the play's mature subject — Ridge High School's dramatists pulled together a tight and rousing version of the student edition of the musical "Rent."
The two Performances were held 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night at the Ridge High School Performing Arts Center.
Director Megan Kern said all faculty and staff were invited to come and learn one of the songs, "Seasons of Love." After the final bow of the show, one of the student directors will ask the audience to remain seated, and in the style of Broadway, quickly explains they are accepting donations for three charities, Kern said. The money collected will be split equally between the charities, the Habitat to Humanity, Broadway Cares and the Marfan Foundation, Kern said.
"As an extra incentive to donate, the staff then comes on stage and sings with the cast. The staff even have solos, and are great!," Kern said.
UPDATED: On Sunday, Kern reported that approximately $3,000, to be split three ways, had been raised for the three charities.
Kern said the show had earlier attracter members of the cast from Raritan Valley Community College to come up and sing with the student cast.
Earlier this week, Patch photographer Terry Boudreau caught Wednesday night's dress rehearsal for the musical and ensemble drama by the late Jonathan Larson.
The students gathering onstage right before the start of rehearsal said many tickets already were sold by that point.
"It's going to be crazy. I think people are going to be blown away," said Emily Cleary, who plays Joanne Jefferson in the play and is Ridge drama club president and a senior. Cleary said students are sorry there will be only two performances of the play.
"At first I though it was going to be a tough job to handle," said sophomore Alex Wilke, who plays Tom Collins, a major role. But he said producing the play had provided a lot of experience, and "turned out really well."
"It's every high school theater geek's dream to put on 'Rent'," said junior Nick Siccone, who plays main character/narrator Mark Cohen. Other major roles include Julius Trombino, who already has gained attention as a young musician, in the part of Roger; Alex Ursino as Mimi; Drew Gardner as Angel; Peter Hughes as Benjamin Coffin III; and Lauren Dennis as Maureen.
Pulling together the play has been "so much fun," said Sally Marvi, a senior and ensemble player. "It's going to be awesome to prove everyone wrong," she said of critics of the decision to produce "Rent" at the high school level.
Megan Kern, Ridge drama teacher, was director. Jason Stewart, art teacher, designed an edgy, spare stage set, and dance teacher Rachel Falas was choreographer.
The students were inspired before the rehearsal by meeting Joe Sommer, a Basking Ridge resident who said his brother was friends with Jonathan Larson while growing up in New York State. He talked to the students about how proud he was to live in a community that would support the play, and its message of tolerance and caring.
Tickets for "Rent School Edition" are available online on the Ridge Performing
Arts Center website. Tickets also will be sold at Ridge High School during lunch periods. Tickets are $16 for adults, and $12 for students and senior citizens.
_ Linda Sadlouskos