SMILE Director Claudia Stefany said the combination of a large group of artistic female students and the recent interest in beauty pageants from television shows such as “Toddlers & Tiaras” led to the musical’s selection as Clarkstown North High School’s spring musical.
“I chose SMILE primarily because I had an overwhelming number of very talented young ladies at Clarkstown North this year and I wanted to feature them all,” Stefany explained. “When I found out the cast had 18 beauty pageant contestants I knew it was the perfect choice for this group of girls.”
70 students are participating in the show and late last week the actors and orchestra rehearsed together for the first time. Auditions took place on December 17 and rehearsals began right at the beginning of January. Stefany said it was exciting to watch the ninth through 12th graders come together as a cohesive team. Stefany is working with Music Director Chris Bankey and Choreographer Cal Chiang.
Stefany summarized the show’s story. SMILE tracks the backstage trials and tribulations of a fictional Young American Miss Beauty Pageant held annually in California. The story centers around two contestants, Doria Hudson, who is the savvier of the two, and wide-eyed Robin Gibson. The girls become friends and help each other through the back stage mechanisms of a low-tier beauty competition. Brenda DiCarlo Freelander, an ex-Young American Miss second runner-up, and her husband Big Bob, a local RV salesman produce the pageant.
Stefany, who directed “Once Upon A Mattress” last year at North, said she dealt with two major issues, which were getting enough rehearsal time especially with severe winter weather and modernizing the script.
“The biggest challenge has been getting enough rehearsal time in,” she said. “It's a big musical so there is not only a lot of music but a lot of choreography as well. Another challenge was updating the script. It originally took place in 1986 so we took great pains to update, which I feel we have done successfully.”
Cast members include: Jenna Handschuh as Doria Hudson, Sabrina Koss playing Robin Gibson, Mackenzie Badick as Brenda Freelander, Greg Carrobis playing Big Bob Freelander, Joe Kim as Ted Farley, Steven Kahn playing Tommy French and Madison Deming as Sandra-Kay Macaffee.
Stefany said she has enjoyed watching Cue & Curtain’s musical production of SMILE come together.
“I am fortunate enough to have amazingly talented and dedicated kids in my cast so it has been an absolute pleasure working with all of them,” she said.
Attend a SMILE performance at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 8th or 15th or Saturday, March 9th or 16th. Tickets cost $12. A free matinee for Clarkstown seniors citizens will be held on March 14 at 10:30 a.m. Reserve tickets at 845-639-5676. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Based on the original 1975 film, SMILE the musical opened on Broadway in 1986. It received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical as well as Drama Desk Award nominations for Outstanding Featured Actor and Outstanding Costume Design that same year. With a score by Marvin Hamlisch ("A Chorus Line," "They're Playing Our Song") and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman ("Little Shop of Horrors," "Beauty And The Beast," "The Little Mermaid") SMILE is considered to be one of the most underappreciated musicals of the 1980’s.