Middle School Stages a Musical of “Twelfth Night”

Be not afraid of “Twelfth Night,” the middle school musical adaptation of the Shakespeare romantic comedy, as it fulfills its promise to transport audiences to the shores of Illyria amid a catchy pop, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll score.

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“This production is a colorful, toe-tapping musical riff on the Shakespeare classic highlighting the spirit of a community, the power of family, the nature of gender in society, mistaken identity and identity found,” explained Jason Reiff, director and choreographer. “In this version of the play, Illyria is a place where people of all strata, ethnicities and genders live in harmony, with just enough gossip and misunderstanding to keep things exciting.”

It’s a premise that has kept the 32 seventh and eighth grade students in the cast and crew engaged and excited. 

Luka Pugatch ’28 plays Malvolio, Countess Olivia’s servant and the main antagonist of the play. “I have lots of fun doing the musical numbers and getting to play the many sides of the character,” he explained. “The dialogue is Shakespearean but all the songs are in modern English so it hasn’t been too challenging — but it has been fun to learn how to understand Shakespeare.”

“The show is a lot more vibrant than last year’s ‘Newsies’ in terms of the emotion and the physical setting,” said Knox Gary ’28, stage manager. “‘Newsies’ was about child labor so its set design was dark and gloomy, but this year all the costumes and lights are colorful. It's very upbeat.”

As Feste, Sabrina Roth ’28 has embraced playing “an outgoing and spunky character who always goes with the flow and loves to play music for everyone.” Roth’s favorite song is "Is This Not Love?": “It has a heartfelt message and is a song that was a lot of fun to learn.”

Emilia Maschang ’28 channeled all her energy into playing Countess Olivia. “While Olivia is grieving at the beginning of the show, she develops a lot. Over time she learns how to love again,” Maschang said. “I have loved being able to explore my character more and more both inside and outside of rehearsal. I truly admire her acceptance of others and her strength while she was going through such a difficult point in her life.”

An eighth grader, Maschang reflected on the bittersweet experience of performing in her last middle school musical: “It has been wonderful to work with such talented and uplifting people, but I will miss being able to work with both Ms. Meadows and Mr. Reiff very much.”

“It’s a delight to help encourage young performers to swim deep into their reservoirs of creative impulse, courage and humor,” Reiff said. “Together with the uber-talented Katie Meadows as musical director and the wildly creative Marie-Louise Miller heading up our design team, it’s been a supreme joy helping guide and shape the ideas and talents of our seventh and eighth grade company of theater artists.”

The team collaborating with Reiff, Meadows and Miller behind the scenes includes Laura Bickford-Wylie, lighting design; Gilles Pugatch, sound design; Peter Wylie, Masters Mainstage technical director; Meg O'Connor, costume assistance; and Jennifer Carnevale, stage management training.

“Twelfth Night” premieres tomorrow, Thursday, March 7, at 7:00 p.m., and runs again on Friday, March 8, at 10:00 a.m. in the Claudia Boettcher Theatre.

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