Celebrating the Seniors of FHS Musical Theatre

Emma Nicholson, Writer

The entire cast of “Chicago” at one of their final rehearsals

In the midst of a confusing and sad time for many, high school seniors are facing an especially difficult time with the cancellation of many “lasts.” One of which includes the FHS musical, Chicago, which was scheduled to go up on Friday March 20th. Despite this cancellation, the creative team of Chicago is working on a potential rescheduling of the show for this summer, and will provide any updates as they are available. Though the production was not performed as scheduled, a talented cast, crew, and creative team have worked tirelessly on the production for many months, and here at Pantherbook we would be remiss if we did not recognize their hard work.

We especially wanted to highlight the seniors of FHS theatre who, for the moment, will not get the chance to appear in their final Franklin High School musical. This is a heartbreaking time for all involved; by giving each senior a spotlight we would like to celebrate their work not only with this production, but over the past four years.

Gina Scratz had the role of Velma in her final FHS musical. Her past stage credits include Children of Eden (Eve), Pippin (Catherine), Seussical (Mayzie), Once on This Island, and The Addams Family. Schratz describes her character as, “a self centered performer at the beginning of the show, but as time goes on she loses her ego as she desperately tries to keep any of the limelight she used to have.” One of her favorite songs from Chicago is “Cell Block Tango,” performed alongside the Six Merry Murderesses. “Velma, similar to myself, sees through people’s facade, specifically Roxie’s, and doesn’t blindly fall to others’ lies,” she says. Gina will be pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre in college, so she will certainly take the stage again in the near future.

Danny Harrington played the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago, and this was his sixth time being involved in an FHS musical. His past stage credits include Bye Bye Birdie, South Pacific, Shrek, Les Miserables, Grapes of Wrath, and more. His character, Billy Flynn, is a manipulative Chicago lawyer who keeps his eye on the prize: the money. In regards to his portrayal of this character, Danny says, “I believe I had what it takes to charm the audience.” His favorite song to perform from the show was “All I Care About is Love,” an uptempo song revealing Billy’s true intentions. Danny says he was very happy to have this show be his last one with the whole cast: “I’m going out with a bang!” he says.

Emma Leonard played the role of Merry Murderess Katalin Hunyak in Chicago. This would have been her fourth time appearing in the FHS musical. Emma’s past stage credits include the Once on This Island, The Addams Family (Ancestor), Seussical (Bird Girl), and High School Musical (Gabriella). Katalin Hunyak is a Hungarian prisoner at Cook County Jail who speaks very little English. “I feel as though I can relate to her innocence as a character as well as her repressed anger and inability to properly communicate her story to others,” Emma says. In regards to the rehearsal process, she says, “I’ve really seen a transformation in not only myself, but my cast as well.” Emma will go on to study nursing in the fall.

Julia Maloney
Chloe Selznick (left), Danny Harrington (middle), and Amanda Melmed (right) in costume for Chicago.

Chloe Selznick had the role of Miss Mary Sunshine in her fourth and final FHS theatre production. Her past stage credits include Seussical (Mayor), Almost Maine (Glory), Shaken (Louise), Miracle on 34th Street (Sawyer), and Fahrenheit 451 (Mildred). Mary Sunshine is “the type to look for a “little bit of good” in everyone. She is an optimist sometimes to the fault of being a pushover but she is a super fun, bubbly, and over the top character!” Chloe’s favorite song in the show is “They Both Reached For the Gun,” because she enjoys the brisk tempo and goofy mood.

Julia Maloney
Danny D’Aprile (left), Amanda Melmed (middle), Danny Harrington (right) in costume for Chicago.

Danny D’Aprile played the role of Amos in Chicago. Danny’s past stage credits include Once on this Island  (Ton Ton Julian), The Addams Family (Pugsley), Seussical (Horton), and more. Danny found his character Amos to be one of the most interesting and relatable characters in the show. “He’s endured some traumatic events early in his life, and is overlooked by many of his peers. However, he still remains a caring and loyal individual, which I think resonates with millions of people in the world, including myself.” Danny’s favorite song from the show is “My Own Best Friend.” “I love the harmonies and overall composition of the song!” he says. Despite the cancellation, Danny is hopeful that he will get to share this production with the community in the coming months. ” I’d like thank the cast, the stage crew, the pit, and both Mrs. Lonati and Ms. Hersee, as without all of them, the show wouldn’t have been as incredible as it is.”

Julia Maloney
Emma Leonard, Aimee Alston, Mia Magliari, Idabel Guilmette, and Mckenna Heater in costume for Chicago as the Six Merry Murderesses.

Isabel Guilmette had the role of Mona in Chicago. Her past stage credits include Once on This Island, The Addams Family, and Seussical. Her character, Mona, is a prisoner in the Cook County Jail for murdering her lover. Isabel has played a pivotal role in the theatre department’s wardrobe and costuming for the past few years, with her latest work being recognized for “Six Rounds of Vengeance” at the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild Drama Festival last month.

Mrs. Lonati has been the director and choreographer of musicals in the Franklin school district for 15 years. Chicago was her ninth and final show as director for the Franklin High School musical. Throughout her time at FHS she has gotten to direct all three of her daughters in theater which she enjoyed. “I have directed all three of my girls which made me very happy to share our love of theater,” she says. “Musical theater brings people so close together and it is a bond that lasts forever. I still hear from many of my former students with happy memories of fun rehearsals and fabulous shows. I will cherish the time I had at FHS, and I will miss it very much.”

Mrs. Lonati
The Six Seniors of FHS Theatre: Gina Schratz, Danny Harrington, Emma Leonard, Isabel Guilmette, Danny D’Aprile, Chloe Selznick (not pictured).

Here is her message to the seniors of FHS Theatre: 

“To my dears seniors, my heart is heavy that we are ending without a show. After two and a half months of rehearsing Chicago, the Coronavirus canceled our performance. I am still hoping to figure out a way of doing it before you go off to college in the fall. Fingers crossed! You have all been with me through the years in so many ways! Not only with your fabulous performances in Chicago rehearsals, Seussical, Addams Family and Once On This Island but in other performance related things as well. Many of you have done theater with me outside of Franklin, you’ve done my camps, you’ve done the Passion Play for me at church, you are my neighbors and my friends. I will miss you and always remember you as my last seniors. Break a leg as you start your next adventure and please stay in touch! And always remember the words of Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. Xoxoxo,  Mrs. Lonati.”