With help from the Paper Mill Playhouse, Harrison HS’s drama club will perform ‘The Apple Tree’

The cast of ‘The Apple Tree.’

The Harrison High School Drama Club returns to the stage this year with its latest production, “The Apple Tree,” with performances April 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. at the high school, 401 Kingsland Ave.

Director Colin Shields says he is excited to bring live, school-based theater back to the community.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to perform, and the students are incredibly enthusiastic,” he said.

The arts have always been an important part of the curriculum in Harrison, he says, and this year, in addition to the club, Shields is teaching classes in theater and set design.

Harrison High School among a select group of schools chosen to participate in the Paper Mill Playhouse’s Adopt-a-School outreach project. Since 1995 the project has offered New Jersey public high schools four-year sequential programming free of charge.

These services include field trips to Paper Mill productions, skill building workshops both in school and at the theater and the opportunity to create and perform an original theater piece on the Paper Mill stage.

“What an amazing opportunity,” Shields said. “It reinforces what we teach in drama, hard work and dedication pays off.”

The HHS Drama Club has also won three Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards for the production of “James and the Giant Peach.”

“This is the Tony Awards for high school productions, an incredible accomplishment considering the size of the schools we compete against. We get such valuable and supportive feedback from participating in this program. Our shows continue to improve with their guidance,” Producer Mary Pat Shields said.

Originally staged in 1966 and revived in 2006 with Kristen Chenoweth, “The Apple Tree” is a series of three musical playlets with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Each act has its own storyline, but all three are tied together by a common theme — someone who believes they want something, but once they get what they wanted, they realize that it wasn’t what they wanted after all.

The club strives every year to improve its programing and for the first time in over a decade, under the musical direction of Danny Conde, will be performing alongside a live orchestra.

“This has been a dream of ours for quite some time,” Conde said. “We are very grateful for the support that has made it a reality.”

And support has been felt from all over town.

“We would be nothing without the support of the Harrison community,” Shields said. “In addition to the Board of Education, the PTSO and our faculty and staff, the local business community keeps us going. It’s their generous support of our ad book and ticket sales that make these productions possible.

“I think the best part of this is being able to expose the lower grades to live theater through our matinees. For some students this is the only opportunity they have to see a musical production. I know it had a huge impact on me when I was growing up, I am so happy to be able to give that same experience to the next generation of theater lovers.”

For ticket information, contact Shields at (973) 482-5050 or send an email to  hhsdramaclub@harrisonschools.org.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.