Sunday, March 1, 2009

Perfectly Normal: The Superhero Musical Hits the Stage in March

by Deanna Roux

Two Chestnut Hill Community School teachers, Steve Walkowicz and Josh Guerraz, teamed up last summer to write an original play called “Perfectly Normal: The Superhero Musical.” At the end March, all their hard work - and the hard work of 100-plus students, teachers and parents - will be presented on stage in two performances at Belchertown High School.

“We had to write a play that involved fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. It had to be kid-oriented with a lot of speaking parts,” Walkowicz said, “We had about five rewrites. It was like a summer job,” he laughed.

Josh Guerraz, Music Teacher,
rehearses with the "Super Chorus"

Guerraz, music teacher and life-long musician, wrote all the original music for the play and Walkowicz, sixth-grade math teacher, wrote all the lyrics, as well as the play itself. All the acting, singing and musical instruments are performed by the students. “We have six original songs in it and there are eight scenes. At times, we’ll have 100 kids singing on stage,” Walkowicz said.

This isn’t the first play the two have produced. “In the last two years we spoofed High School Musical and we called it ‘Elementary School Musical.’ So we rewrote the songs and it was really successful,” Walkowicz explained, “The kids loved it. We saw that kids really aren’t afraid to sing. Maybe it’s the American idolization of kids,” he added. This year the two decided to write their own musical to avoid costly fees incurred by copyrighted material.

“Perfectly Normal: The Superhero Musical” is the story of a fictional country that segregates all of the super heroes. They live in a camp called Super City. “The superheroes are obviously not too happy about this so they come up with the idea of inviting a perfectly normal family to live with them to show that perfectly normal people can live side by side with super heroes.” Walkowicz explained.

The play centers on this “normal” family and how hard it is for them to blend in with the super heroes. “It’s all about fitting in and what it feels like when you don’t fit in. It’s also about equality,” said Walkowicz, “It’s supposed to be funny - that’s what we try for - but it also has a serious side to it.”

In addition to the speaking parts, the show boasts over 50 cast members in a Super Chorus which sings throughout the musical. With the help of one of the teachers, they design their own super hero costume, write their autobiography and essentially create their own character.

To help pay for the play, the kids paid $15 to participate. So far, that fee has paid for cast t-shirts and part of it will go toward the background scenery. Ticket sales will fund things like lights, sound, and janitorial services. “The program will feature small ads bought by moms and dads. It’s all self-sufficient. There’s no money from the school and we didn’t get any grants because we started kind of late, but we’re learning what to do for next time,” Walkowicz said.

Walkowicz admits that it’s challenging to get through a 100-person rehearsal, but adds, “Five minutes after it’s over I always feel good about how much fun it was and how charged up the kids are.”

There will be two 7 pm performances on Friday, March 27th and Saturday, March 28th. Tickets are on sale now and cost $5 each ($3 for students and senior citizens). For more information, e-mail Steve Walkowicz.

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