A little bit o ‘Paradise’ at KHS


Photos by Ron Leir Cast of ‘Vacancy in Paradise’ in rehearsal for upcoming production
Photos by Ron Leir
Cast of ‘Vacancy in Paradise’ in rehearsal for upcoming production


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


With the winter season rapidly approaching, theatergoers may be looking for something to latch onto to quicken the pulse a bit.

Kearny High School may have just the right solution when it presents “Vacancy in Paradise” as its annual drama performed by members of the senior class for the public.

The show runs Dec. 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Tickets, available for purchase at the door, are $5 for students and senior citizens and $7 for adults.

The action of this 1962 comedy in three acts is focused on the Paradise Glen Cabins, a rustic and rundown lodge in the Lake region of New Hampshire, which Wally Bigelow, the failed son of a salesman, stumbles upon.

After meeting Ellen, the owner’s daughter, and after learning that the summer resort has spawned a few weddings, Wally hits on a scheme to put the place back on its feet and “sell” romance bigtime – even if it means setting up a match between the daughter of a banker who holds the mortgage and a hobo.

There follows the farcical twists and turns of a zany plot which, in turn, threaten to unravel Wally’s plan. An unexpected ending is in store.

Fifteen cast members including principals Michael Oliveira, as Wally Bigelow, and Cassie O’Shea, as Ellen Danby, take the stage under the direction of Brian Toal.

Behind the scenes, John Bednarczyk is set designer and lighting director; Joana Marmelo is stage manager; and Kathleen Astrella is business manager.

Proceeds from the performances go to the senior class fund.

“This is the first time we’re doing this play,” Toal said. “It’s very family friendly and it’s good for all ages to see.”

Toal credited the seniors involved in the project with extending themselves to make the production a success. “These kids do a lot of other things between 2:40 p.m. [when classes end] and 6:30 p.m. when they come to rehearsal, like sports or clubs or work. So for them to put in such dedication, makes me very proud.”

The student actors have been learning their lines, getting down their blocking and developing their on-stage characters since Oct. 1.

For both O’Shea and Oliveira, perhaps the biggest challenge they’ve had to overcome is doing a show with no music. In their most recent production, “Once On This Island,” O’Shea played TiMoune and Oliveira was a Storyteller.

“For me, it’s harder doing a [straight] play than a musical,” said O’Shea, now in her fifth season on the high school stage. [She was given her first shot acting as an eighth-grader.] “It’s harder to memorize my lines when there’s nothing – songs or dancing – to back it up. So I’ve spent extra time, just going over my lines.”

Oliveira, who plays baritone tuba in the KHS marching and concert bands, said he’s managing his memorization well but is adjusting to the “beat” – pacing – of his speech rhythms.

“I’m working on slowing down my lines,” he said. “Once I get on stage, I become too nervous and cluttered.”

And getting under his character Wally’s skin has been something of a struggle as well, Oliveira acknowledged. “Wally’s an uptight, pushy guy,” he explained. “I’m more of an upbeat person; I’m a follower. It’s uncomfortable for me to lead.”

Similarly, O’Shea said she’s been searching for a breakthrough to feeling more grounded in Ellen, her stage role. “She’s aggressive, stubborn, in Wally’s face, and I’m not like that at all.”

Toal is patient with his young actors, offering suggestions aimed at helping them find their way.

And, once they’re over this hurdle, there’s the spring musical to look forward to.

But, for O’Shea, who plays clarinet in the marching and concert bands, swims competitively and is an honors student, the acting bug will take second fiddle to post-graduation plans: She wants to be a “clinical psychologist and work with family services.”

And Oliveira has got his sights set on become a “music educator.” Both his parents had to drop out of school in their native Portugal to go to work to help support their families. “I want to teach, to make both of them happy,” he said.

Here are the other seniors in the cast: Alba Gonzalez (Claire Danby), David Novis (Mitch), Amanda Seda (Myrtle), Marco Matos (Jonas), Joseph Fair (Boxie), Charishma More (Laura), Gabriella Robles (Bon Bon), Jessica Sela (Lydia), Stephanie Pinto (Caroline), Steven Dyl (J. Byron Bennett), Dania Felix (Celeste), Kassandra Nordeste (Ruth Lassiter) and Virginia Cruz- Ayala (A Girl).

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