Youth theatre company will stage Mary Poppins this summer
By Hannah Devlin
This summer, Port Summer Show, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to teen theater in town, celebrates its 50th anniversary. The organization not only offers middle school and high school students the opportunity to get more involved in their community, but provides a safe space for theatrical expression as well.
The organization has been operating since 1972, and although the staff and board members have changed throughout the years, its mission and dedication have proven persistent.
Jesse Pellegrino, Port Summer Show’s current choreographer, explained that “From my first rehearsal, I felt an instant sense of community and family.”
This sense of community is something that has proven to be consistent throughout the organization’s different productions. Despite the length of time between each summer, as students return, their bond with each other, the artistic staff and board members, is something that is unchanging
Pellegrino has been involved in the organization since 2014, and in that time, has choreographed a wide variety of different genres and styles of dance.
“I try my best to educate the cast in each of these styles,” he explained. “It can be a learning process for me as well… I deep dive into these shows and learn all I can about them to fully understand what I need my choreography to accomplish.”
This dedication is something that is a staple of the Port Summer Show productions, and it is a sentiment that is shared by all involved.
Port Summer Show’s Co-Presidents, Michael and Leah Siskin, expanded on this idea, stating, “This show is nothing without the hard work and efforts of a lot of people, the cast, the crew, the pit, all of our creative production team, the many committee directors and parent volunteers, and the donations we receive from the many generous people and businesses in our community.”
Throughout its 50 years, Port Summer Show has grown and evolved in order to provide students with the best experience possible.
“We had to completely reinvent the program for 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic made a live show impossible,” the Siskins explained.
Despite the challenge, the organization remained dedicated. In the 2020 “Can’t Stop Us” series, Port Summer Show was able to provide its students with a variety of virtual classes and programs.
“It is not an easy feat when dealing with theater,” said Pellegrino. “Being live is the very essence of theater, and when that got taken away we were faced with a challenge. Needless to say, we persevered and were able to give the kids a unique theatrical experience.”
In the midst of unexpected complications, Port Summer Show proved its commitment to its community. It is no surprise that with the devotion displayed, the organization has become a staple program in the community.
In honor of the anniversary, David Barnett, the organization’s first musical director, has put together a “First 50 Shows” medley to celebrate the 50 summers of outstanding productions. The medley will feature songs from each show, and even the virtual programs during 2020 are represented in the song.
“It’s been fun finding good representative bits of music to represent each summer’s show and to combine them all in a fun way,” explained Barnett.
In addition to the vocal aspect of the medley, Barnett has arranged a full pit orchestra score as well.
Barnett acted as musical director for the first six shows that the organization put on, and has returned occasionally to fill in for various roles, such as directing or playing in the pit orchestra.
Once again, this dedication is something that is unique about the organization, as evidenced by the retention rate of all of those who have been involved.
“I understand how hard it is for volunteer groups to survive past the involvement of their originators,” said Barnett. “The PSS not just survived, but has thrived. I am both proud and amazed that the group is still putting on shows 50 years after we started.”
This summer, the organization has announced Mary Poppins as its 50th anniversary production. As with many popular stage musicals, Mary Poppins poses the challenge of recognition.
“It is our task to bring this story to life before the audience’s eyes and not tarnish the memories they hold so dear,” said Pellegrino. “I think we are doing just that.”
With its whimsical charm and fantastical magic, the production aims to exceed already-high expectations.
“These talented young performers take the stage with style and grace that is way beyond their years,” continued Pellegrino.
Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, live music and theater is something that has proven to be an extraordinary experience—and one that should not be taken for granted.
“Music and theatre are both things that people can enjoy their whole lives, whether it’s on stage or in the audience. It starts by giving young people a chance to try it out for themselves. The Port Summer Show continues to give the teens in Port that opportunity,” said Barnett. “I’m very glad it does.”