Raising the ‘Curtains’ with new director
One of the signs of spring in New Milford is the appearance of signs for the New Milford High School musical.
This year’s musical is “Curtains,” a backstage murder mystery set in the 1950s.
“The show is a love letter to musical theater,” said new director Alessandro Amenta, an English teacher in his third year at the school.
“Murder aside, ‘Curtains’ is a heartwarming show about artists coming together to do what they love,” he said.
Although the show is not well-known, Amenta feels it has a lot to offer the students.
“There are great roles for actors, comedians, vocalists, and dancers. This musical is truly an ensemble piece; everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine,” he said.
Amenta is following in the footsteps of Bob Keck, who retired after the 2016-17 school year.
For someone who has been involved in theater since high school, it’s a dream come true.
With the support of Debbie McGuire and Stephen Donahue, both longtime veterans of the high school productions, and new vocal director Kevin Bielmeier, Amenta is making a smooth transition to a dream job.
He admits to being nervous about taking on the all-school musical.
“This is the first time I am directing a program that has garnered such a reputation,” he said. “What Mr. Keck was able to do here was extraordinary”
Awed by the level of professionalism that the students consistently achieved with Keck, Amenta realizes the stakes are high, and all eyes are on him.
He credits the staff, parents, and students with providing support to make his first show a smash.
“Mr. Donahue and Ms. McGuire have been paramount to maintaining the high-quality people expect from the all-school musical,” Amenta said. “They are a huge part of what makes the shows so great year after year, and I simply could not have done this show without them,” Amenta said.
For Donahue, “Curtains” presents some interesting obstacles.
“Our theater has a lot of height but not a lot of wing space, so we tend to use a fair number of drops to change scenes,” he said.
Most of the show takes place in the backstage rehearsal space of a theater, which he notes was a pretty easy set to create.
“But ‘Curtains’ has 10 drops that fly up and down, including six that were designed and painted by students,” he said. “There are also 15 rolling set pieces that come on and off during the show.”
For McGuire, the musical offers her a chance to choreograph in several different styles—country, ballroom, tap and Broadway.
“The kids are always so enthusiastic about learning new things,” she said.
Theater has long been a part of Amenta’s life. He minored in drama at college, where he began directing teen productions.
As a student teacher, he restarted that school’s drama program. When he arrived in New Milford, he became co-advisor for the drama club.
When he learned Keck was retiring, he took time to chat with him and Donahue, to learn more about what they had been doing.
After “Mary Poppins” ended, he spent time with Keck to learn more about the school musicals program. But he didn’t know if the position was going to be open.
“I interviewed for the position the last day of school last year and was officially hired at the end of the day, right before I left for the summer,” Amenta said. “I was so excited to discuss ideas but everyone was gone.”
Everyone is looking forward to the performances.
“I just want everyone to know that we are still here,” Donahue said. “Even though Bob Keck retired we have been working endless numbers of hours to try to keep his legacy going.”