Jul 28, 2014
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MHS Musings: 'Cheaper by the Dozen' Opens Friday

The MHS Drama Club present a hilarious drama for all ages.

The Millburn High School Drama Club is excited to take to the stage by storm in its spring production of Frank Gilbreth's "Cheaper by the Dozen," a family-friendly, comedic play.

The performance will be held on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Millburn High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 in advance (up until noon on Friday), and $12 at the door. Call 973-564-7130 ext. 455 to reserve tickets in advanced. High school students can purchase tickets during lunchtime this week.

"Cheaper by the Dozen," directed by English teacher Suzanne Snyder and assistant directed by high school social worker Pat Corlett, is a "straight play" with no musical numbers and runs approximately 90 minutes with one intermission.

"Although my first love is acting and singing, I have grown to respect and love directing over the past eight years, five of those years directing plays and musicals at Millburn High School," Snyder says.

This play is Corlett's directorial debut, who has a love for the theater and has "always wanted to be a part of a production from the ground up."

Senior Mika Madgavkar, the play's stage manager, also has been working hard with the directors to create an incredible performance.

"Cheaper by the Dozen," which inspired the 2003 box-office hit, tells the story of the boisterous Gilbreth family and their adventures growing up in the 1920's in Montclair.

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (junior Jeremy Bergman and senior Samantha Schoen), the parents, are experts in motion-study-efficiency and impose these same principles on their 12 (yes, 12!) children. Mr. Gilbreth spends a great deal of time teaching his children outside of school in order for them to skip as many grades as they possibly can.

The family eventually adopts a legislative council where each member of the family is able to speak their opinions.

Through this democratic process, however, the children become rebellious and begin coming of age into responsible young adults. They start going on dates and making defiant fashion statements, which prompts conflict to arise between the older children and their stern father.

The story is told in the perspective of two of the children, Frank Jr. (senior Ethan Lipkind) and Ernestine (freshman Jordana Graifman).

In one of Corlett's favorite scenes, the strict schoolteacher Miss Brill (junior Melissa Rosenberg) proctors a word-association exam to the oldest daughter, Anne (senior Ashley Rappoport), in her parents' hopes that she will be able to graduate early. The exam, which takes a hilarious twist, is witnessed by the entire family, who "are so loyal, supportive, and protective of their family member," said Corlett.

This year's cast is extremely talented and funny thanks to intense character study and outstanding acting ability.

The talented cast includes seniors Hannah Berg, Alex Fagan, Eric Frank, Blaine Greenberg, Beth Holler, Ethan Lipkind, Ashley Rappoport, Samantha Schoen, and Noah Silverman; juniors Jeremy Bergman, Martha Meguerian, Kathryn Raskin, Melissa Rosenberg, Sam Schenerman, and Corey Wagner; and freshmen Rachel Ben-Menachem, Jordana Graifman, and myself.

The stage crew has been invaluable to the production. The crew, under high school direction of architecture teacher Roger Keller, has literally built a home for the Gilbreth family with walls, doors, windows and then some. They completely designed the entire stage and set elements. They also organized the microphones, lighting and sound cues with the help of Matthew Spatz, theater manager and MHS associate director of bands.

"Dr. Keller is a brilliant set designer and his stage crew is talented and dedicated, and Mr. Spatz keeps our theater in the best shape possible and performance-ready", said Snyder.

Sophomore Erin Hernon, junior Jamie Paro, senior Becca Silverman, sophomore Julia Silverstein, and others have been working hard with costumes, makeup and other aspects of the production.

The cast and production crew, have been putting in countless hours each week in order to make the performance extraordinary. In fact, since "Cheaper by the Dozen" rehearsals commenced in January, rehearsals for the cast have run each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until 6:30 p.m. or later. Snyder figures each contributor to the production, whether in the cast or crew, put in over 300 hours each in various aspects and duties.

Outside of rehearsal hours, the crew has been building the set and preparing props, costumes and makeup while the cast has been memorizing lines and stage direction, all leading up to this weekend's performance.

As directors, Snyder and Corlett "facilitate the many aspects of a production – the blocking of the show, ordering of the costumes, makeup and set pieces, the design of the playbill, ordering of tickets, publicity, and the best part of all… being a part of this team," Snyder says.

Corlett's favorite part about directing is "seeing the spin that each actor/actress takes on his/her role, regardless of what direction has been given to him/her."

This year's production has far exceeded Corlett's expectations. "The students are incredibly talented, and watching them grow into their respective roles, become a cohesive family and taking the play so seriously has warmed my heart," she said.

When I asked of her expectations for this weekend, Snyder said "Cheaper by the Dozen" "will be a wonderful play, with wholesome charm, classic humor and traditional theatrical appeal. These talented kids get that and my vision. I couldn't hope for more than that, but I know they will still surpass my expectations."

The Millburn High School Drama Club, under Snyder's leadership, is in the process of their 2009-2010 season with its eighth Annual Millburn Cares Fundraiser, "Rock the Cause." Co-Presidents Alex Fagan and Ashley Rappoport, along with vice president Martha Meguerian and fundraising coordinator Alex Sugarman, have raised $400 so far this year. To date, the Drama Club has raised close to $10,000 for AIDS/HIV organizations in the tri-state area.

After "Cheaper by the Dozen," the fundraising will continue with the Drama Club's annual themed benefit concert on Friday, June 11 in the high school auditorium. This year's theme is rock-operas.

Any donations collected this year will go to Broadway House for Continuing Care in Newark. The Drama Club encourages people to bring donations to Broadway House to "Cheaper by the Dozen."

As a member of this fantastic cast, I can say we have come together to essentially become a family both onstage and off through our days (and nights) together at rehearsal. For the show to run smoothly, each cast member must rely on each other, which has allowed the 18 of us to become one cohesive team. Although rehearsals are at times strenuous and demanding, we are all enjoying our experiences and look forward to successful performances this weekend.

Max Sauberman is a freshman at Millburn High School.

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