Wellesley High School students and alumni put on a great show Saturday night before a packed house at the soon-to-be shuttered school’s auditorium. While 1968 grad Billy Squier generated the most pre-show buzz — and delivered during the show (see video) — it was the wide variety of skills on display from students and alumni that made the show a success from start to finish. Show organizers did an excellent job of commemorating the old school and old friends without getting too sappy.
The event opened with a jazz combo performance from WHS seniors Matt DiBiase and Harvey Xia, along with 2011 grad Tyler Lash. From there, trumpet virtuoso Stephen Burns took over, with one of several performances during the night that recalled former classmates who have died.
Adam Harrington (left, below; an actor who has appeared on “Scrubs,” etc) and Tim Dowling (movie/TV writer, actor, producer) then began their excellent emceeing of the event, which included special thanks to retired Wellesley High teacher Jeanie Goddard, the event’s visionary (below, red outfit). Among the emcees’ stunts: Dowling showed up in a cowardly lion costume, and joined Harrington in a medley of songs from plays they took part in while at the school during the late 1980s and 1990s. Dowling also recounted an ill-advised performance of Batman, which got complicated when he belatedly realized it took a long time for an actor to switch from a rubber Batman suit into a Bruce Wayne suit. They related one story about Harrington’s brother Jay, also an actor, who once accidently mooned the audience during a play on the WHS stage, and later flashed to a clip from one of his TV shows during which he dropped his drawers. They also drew laughs from the crowd for a re-enactment of the old “turf wars” between the gangs of Wellesley Hills and Wellesley (“preps vs the preps”) back before the 1938 Wellesley High School building united the separate parts of town vs. Needham.
The slew of talented performers during the first half of the show included: Olivia Buckley, who sang a song from “A Chorus Line”; poet Nazaleem Cecile Smith, who got the audience involved in reading one of her poems; wife and husband Susan and Rich Bailey who led the singing of a folk tune; and opera singer Eileen (McLoughlin) Christiansen. Current students also performed a number, and a video montage highlighted works of alumni in TV and movies, including from such shows as The Simpsons (the emcees stressed that Bart did not go to WHS).
After intermission, contemporary singers Sarah Blacker and Kayla Ringelheim (and Yancil Cooper) performed separately, with Blacker dedicating her song to her old Wellesley home that got torn down and replaced by a McMansion. Violinist Kelsey Woerner and musical theatre alumni showed off their talents, and set the stage for Squier, who cranked up the noise level in belting out two old hits, “In the Dark” and “Everybody Wants You.”
Show producer/singer Beth Carrillo Thomas and the Rock Ensemble wrapped up the night, joining the crowd on a heartfelt version of John Lennon and Paul McCarthy’s “In My Life. The rest of the performers as well as Goddard also took the stage, holding aloft LED candles that were also distributed to the audience. Goddard commanded everyone to “Turn Out The Lights” at the end of the song, which created a fitting finale.
Although things weren’t quite finished… Friend of The Swellesley Report Artie Doran and the Rock Ensemble sent the crowd off with a set of school-themed songs, including “School’s Out For The Summer.”
All throughout the show, pianist Chad Weirick and a crew of student volunteers kept the night flowing smoothly. Even when a technical difficulty or two did surface, the performers and emcees handled the situations with ease and good humor. Dowling chimed in at one point, when an instrument wouldn’t power up, that it was times like these when you wish Wellesley wasn’t a dry town.
(For those of you who didn’t attend or want to see the performance again, keep an eye on Wellesley cable listings, as Wellesley Media was on the scene)