Want to combine the fun of a Disney-Pixar film with a history lesson? Well, throw in some singing, dancing and plenty of familiar faces and you've got 'Toy HiSTORY,' the whimsical Washington Elementary School production opening this weekend.
A long-standing tradition dating back to 1948, the show, written, produced and performed entirely by Washington School parents, has become the school’s biggest fundraiser, with all proceeds going to the PTO to provide classroom resources, teacher grants and additional programs for Washington’s 300+ students.
This year's production, written by John Schwartz, father of three Washington students, centers around a spirited group of toys trying to find their way back home after being mistakenly donated to a school toy drive. Schwartz, an attorney, said penning the musical was a fun departure from the writing his does for a living.
"It was really enjoyable because it was very different," said Schwartz, who added that he was thrilled to hear his script, one of four submitted, had been selected.
"You can tell just by reading his emails that he's a writer," added Carl Pansini, one of the show's performers and choreographers, who said the production is chock full of laughs as well as notable figures ranging from Cleopatra and Amelia Earhart to Al Capone to Elvis Presley.
Co-producer Michael Constantinou said 'Toy HiSTORY' is a lot of fun for everyone. "Even during the read-through, early on, we knew it was going to be great," he said.
Schwartz said the fact that the show must contain particular elements such as a men's number, a couples dance, and certain sentences, provided him with an organized way to approach it.
"It's a formula that's been working for 66 years," noted Pansini.
Everyone agreed another special component is knowing how excited the children are to see 'Mom and Dad' up on stage.
"There's nothing else like it in Westfield," said Schwartz, whose wife Vanessa sings and dances in the production. "It's amazing to see how it all comes together."
While the behind-the-scenes work goes on year-round, Pansini explained, rehearsals don't begin until January, creating for an intense but fun-filled few weeks.
"It always comes together. We have incredibly talented people, and come Friday night when the adrenaline kicks in, it's even better," he said.
First-year producer Marc Fishman said it's been exciting to be a part of this Westfield institution.
"It's great to see parents showcase their talent for the good of the school," he said. "I'm really looking forward to a great show."
Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 and at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 on the Roosevelt Intermediate School stage.
Tickets are on sale now for all three performances. All seats for each performance are $12 and can be reserved online. Visit the Washington Elementary School home page—http://www.westfieldnjk12.org/Washington—click on the “2013 Washington School Show” link in the left, then “Ticket Order Form.” Or go directly to the Washington School Show web page via this link: http://www.westfieldnjk12.org/education/dept/dept.php?sectionid=1328. Tickets ordered online and prepaid can be picked up at the door one-half hour prior to each performance. For questions about tickets, contact Monica Bergin at email@example.com.