HOORAY for Hollywood: Capital project forces musical to historic theater

Submitted photos Gowanda Central School students rehearse at the Historic Hollywood Theater for their upcoming play.

GOWANDA – A unique and exciting opportunity for creative collaboration is being realized this month as Gowanda High School’s Thespian Society presents its annual musical at the recently restored Historic Hollywood Theater on Main Street.

Due to the ongoing capital project on the Gowanda Central School District campus, “The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” found rehearsal and performance refuge at this Main Street venue since the Music Department has been displaced due to the renovations.

Student actors will take the stage Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21 to 22, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students/seniors. Contact a cast member to purchase your presale tickets. Tickets can also be purchased at the door. A special free performance for senior citizens — a tradition in Gowanda — is scheduled Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

“This is the first time that GHS has ever performed a full-length musical at the Hollywood theater,” says high school music teacher and producer/director Robin Smith, who is leading the production along with GCS alum and current Lakeshore High School special education teacher Abby Fetterick as co-director overseeing choreography and light design. “Which is incredibly exciting, but also a massive undertaking.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is an uplifting tale about several eclectic youngsters finding joy, heartache and a purpose in competing at the regional spelling bee finals. Musical numbers include “My Friend the Dictionary,” “Pandemonium,” “Magic Foot,” and “The I Love You Song.”

Submitted photos Gowanda Central School students rehearse at the Historic Hollywood Theater for their upcoming play.

The district has been working on the musical since the end of the 2020-21 academic year due to the overwhelming amount of planning and preparation needed to build a production from the bottom up.

Performing at the historic Hollywood Theater presented an additional challenge. Although the 1926 theater has been restored, the stage area has not yet been upgraded to accommodate modern performance-based arts, says Deb. J. Harris, grant and project administrator for the venue.

As a result, lights and sound needed to be enhanced for the production.

“There have been other full length plays at the Hollywood in the past,” says Harris. “However, this will be the first since the theater has been historically restored.”

Due to pandemic restrictions in 2021, Gowanda CSD put on their elementary/middle school production at the Hollywood and the high school play was recorded and shown on the big screen there.

Submitted photos Gowanda Central School students rehearse at the Historic Hollywood Theater for their upcoming play.

After those successes, Harris says she and board president Mark Burr were approached by Smith and musical co-producer Adam Bett, a middle school music teacher at GCS, who explained their lack of a stage situation for 2022.

“We were both more than happy to accommodate them,” says Harris of the decision leading to the musical being staged at the Hollywood.

In collaboration with Dan Wiegand, light tech (Lockport Stageworks), Matt Estep, sound engineer/tech (Matt Estep Audio) and Bill Peglowski (Falcon Productions), the the Music Department and Hollywood Theater constructed a fully functioning theatrical light and sound set-up using a combination of rentals and GCS light/sound equipment.


As the performance dates near, the district is approaching this opportunity as an all-hands-on-deck effort. In fact, the Building & Grounds Department led by Richard Smith and his crew dedicated a portion of a recent snow day Jan. 7 to transporting equipment from the campus to the theater. In collaboration with the staff and board at the Hollywood Theater (Mark Burr, Deb Harris and Amy Jarzynski) they worked together for the load-in at the theater.

They collaborated to transport set pieces, light and sound equipment, props, and everything else needed for the production. To help the students with their performance, they oversaw the moving of large and heavy set pieces – risers, chairs, stands, microphones, a spotlight and much more.

“We have been working hard during the pandemic this year to maintain the program and we are thankful for our community’s continued support of our GCS musicians,” says Smith. “And seeing everyone from the school and theater work together so the kids can be together in this beautiful venue and make these memories is priceless for our Panther family.”

At the Hollywood, the feeling is mutual.

“We have been restoring this beautiful venue for two decades,” says Harris. “And we are delighted that the community can benefit from it.”


Jack Warrior as Charlito “Chip” Tolentino

Sam Latimore as Carl (Dad) Grubenierre and Jesus

Kaeden Salzman as Dan (Dad) Schwartz

Madilyn Pawlak as Miss Honey

Sydney Smith as Leaf Coneybear

Destiny Golden as Leaf’s Memaw

Makayla Kuras as Leaf’s Mom

Laila Moon as Leaf’s Sister Blossom

Natalie Baco as Leaf’s Sister Daisy

Alhanna Gabel as Leaf’s Sister Landscape

Gabby Whipple as Leaf’s Sister Marigold

Cynthia Schukraft as Leaf’s Sister Meadow

Arianna Wolff as Leaf’s Sister Orchard

Avery Wilson as Leaf’s Sister Pebble

Caitlyn Gangi as Leaf’s Sister Pinecone and Olive’s Mom

Maddox Booth as Leaf’s Sister Raisin

Emma Taylor as Leaf’s Sister Saffron

Rhianna Bibeau as Leaf’s Sister Seashell

Danielle Krajewski as Leaf’s Sister Sue

Hailey Christopher as Logainne Schwartz and Grubenierre

Alyssa Golden as Marcy Park

Arley Sommers as Mitch the Comfort Counselor and Olive’s Dad

Emma Christopher as Olive Ostrovsky

Hanna Green as Rona Lisa Peretti

Conner Wilson as Vice Principal Douglas Panch

Hudson Smith as William Barfee


Also part of the production team are: Middle school music teacher Adam Bett as producer; Abby Fetterick is no stranger to the stage, having appeared in several GCS productions herself. She has also directed and choreographed many productions at GMS, GHS, as well as Hamburg and Lakeshore High Schools; Retired GES music teacher Mr. Steven Woods, rehearsal accompanist and vocal coach; Lea Golden, costume designer and Title VI Program Director at GCS; Cassidy Smith, property master and GCS alumni. Also, not a stranger to the stage having performed in many GMS and GHS productions; Garry Smith, set construction (husband of director Smith).


¯ Don Wesley (retired GCS teacher, and current director most recently with the Springville Center for the Arts) for donating his time and expertise as acting coach to our cast members.?

¯ Bill Peglowski for his help with light and sound at the Hollywood Theater.

The community is encouraged to attend this family-friendly production. For more information, visit www.gowcsd.org.


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