Maple Street School mixes histories in ‘Saturday Night Caesar'


MANCHESTER -- The Maple Street School put on their annual spring play on Thursday, with a genre-bending performance of "Saturday Night Caesar."

The musical was adapted by Maple Street teachers Erin Gill Reilly and Mary Mangiacotti from William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and the 1977 film "Saturday Night Fever," starring John Travolta. Julius Caesar, played by Ian MacFarlane, returns to MacArthur Park victorious, having recently defeated the great Pompey in a dance contest. "Some people fear," said the narrator, "that Caesar, with his amazing power at the disco, would rule MacArthur Park all by himself." These conspirators, Cassius (Cody Goebel), Casca (Paige Marion), and eventually Brutus (Liam Mooney) don't plan to give him the chance.

In between scenes, the younger students sang and performed dance routines, choreographed by Reilly, Zak Hampton, and Lisa Edry, to popular music from the 1970's, including K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Boogie Shoes," The Village People's "YMCA," and the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive." The plot reaches its dramatic climax when Caesar is stabbed on the dance floor, while students around him dance to Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony's "The Hustle."

Unfortunately for Brutus and company, Caesar's choreographer, Mark Anthony (Nick Price), rallied the people against Caesar's murderers, and his new protege, Octavius, was declared the new King of the Dance Floor.

The costumes, designed by directors Reilly and Mangiacotti, were as ostentatious as could have been hoped for, from the afros of Brutus and Antony, to the shiny gold shirt worn by Cassius. While they may not have fit in in ancient Rome, each of the characters looked like they belonged on the dance floor. The characters accents, as well, would have fit right in in New York in 1977. The soothsayer, for example, warned Caesar of his fate with, "Bewayuh the Ides a' Mawch!"

"Cassius, unlike Caesar, neither has the rhythm nor the moves on the dance floor," said the narrator. Caesar agreed with this assessment, saying, "He doesn't even know how to dance freestyle at the disco, let alone do the Hustle!"

The play was filled with references to 70's music, from the name of their town, MacArthur Park, a reference the Jimmy Webb song of the same name, and the line by Brutus, "Portia, Portia, Portia, I know your eyes by the morning light!" a reference to the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" Portia (played by Jordan Ihasz), for her part, responds, "You always get me with that line!"

Eighth graders MacFarlane, Price, Ihasz, Mooney, Goebel, and Marion, were joined in the main cast by Lily Thebault, who played Caesar's wife, Calpurnia.

In the program, the director's thank Dr. Fran Bisselle, head of the school, for "supporting an environment of joyful, creative expression."

"We would like to acknowledge with gratitude every Maple Street School student," their message continues, "These children have worked with tremendous enthusiasm. Many chose to come to the music room during free ‘choice' times for the sheer joy of singing and playing instruments. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to work with your children."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB


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