They call themselves "Senior Drama Ladies," "The Brunettes," "Mezzo Buddies." The four dramatically-minded W. T. Woodson seniors have been acting in plays together since they were freshmen, but this fall, Jillian Rizzuto, Andrea Fullerton, Micaela Byrne and Amy Kelch will be singing in their last musical together, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Cinderella."
"We’ve all been together since the first audition we ever did," said Jillian. "Ever since then, it’s always been us four."
In their first high-school production, Jillian recalled, all four had minor roles. Now, she said, they are all leads: she plays the fairy godmother; Andrea plays Joy, the gloomy stepsister; Amy plays the queen, Prince Charming’s mother; and Micaela is Cinderella.
Although casting decisions can wreak havoc on the strongest friendships, the four seniors said they felt content with their roles. "We all wanted Cinderella, of course, but we all agreed the best person got it in the end," said Amy, 17.
One of Andrea’s favorite memories of the season so far, she said, is of a few minutes just before the "Cinderella" audition. The girls, who had been through three years and a number of auditions together, huddled in a group and vowed to enjoy the show, no matter what disagreements might come up.
"We said we loved each other and we wanted to make sure our friendship kept staying good," said Andrea.
Still, being a senior in the final musical production of their high school career is more than a little sad, said Amy.
"I’m used to being the youngest," said Andrea. "I remember how seniors were every year, the authority and experience they had." After three years of watching seniors lead the singing warm-ups during practice, she said, now she’s doing the warm-ups.
"Now I’m the one who helps people and gives advice," she said.
"Ever since freshman year, we’ve always been crying about the seniors leaving," said Jillian. The girls all agreed they cannot imagine what they will do at their last production.
"It’s funny, because sometimes the kids panic and say, ‘But we’ve got so many seniors leaving,’ but there’s always juniors waiting there," said Terri Hobson, theater director at Woodson. "It’s like the seniors this year, they’re waiting on their time."
ONE OF THE WOODSON theater department’s traditions is "senior speeches," where all the seniors in the cast get up and speak about their experience in the program.
"We always have to have an earlier call for that," said Hobson. "Most people have to go back after the speeches and re-do their makeup." The speeches are important, she said, with some students preparing theirs in their sophomore year.
Another fun aspect of the show is the "behind-the-scenes gossip," as Amy calls it. Although in the play Cinderella is none too fond of her overbearing stepsisters, in real life Micaela is best friends with one stepsister (Andrea) and sister to the other (Cassie Byrne). In the palace halls, Prince Charming (junior Jeff Walton) falls in love with Cinderella, but in the halls of Woodson, he dates the fairy godmother.
"It’s all the little things that are funny," said Amy.
The Woodson drama program is by no means exclusive. All cast members are good friends, said freshman Leah Bonuccelli.
"Everyone is trying to make me feel very comfortable," she said. "If I mess up, they say, ‘It’s OK.’" Leah, 14, is no stranger to performing, having danced for 10 years and acted in a play at Robert Frost Middle School as well. But high school theater is more fun, she said.
"It’s more laid back," said Leah. "You get to hang out with your friends. I look forward to it, I have theater in the morning and it wakes me up."
Another tradition in the theater department is "secret buddies," where students fill out forms with information about themselves and are randomly paired with other students, who they give anonymous presents to for the remainder of the season. "It’s a nice bonding thing," said Hobson.
"Everyone gets along well," she said. "A lot of kids, in this case, haven’t been in shows before, and it’s fun to watch them start to feel comfortable with everyone."