The students at Islip Middle School were not gonna take it.
As the Twisted Sister song blared over the speaker system in the school auditorium Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of bullhorned hands flew into the air, heads banged and fingers strummed out a few rock-and-roll-worthy chords on an air guitar.
The students, who filled every seat, followed along enthusiastically as the quick routine was choreographed for them from the stage by a handful of the cast members of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages.”
As the grand prize in the WSHU radio station’s “Music in Our Schools” Outreach Program, six members of the cast, including Dan Domenech, who plays the lead role and is originally from Farmingdale, performed songs from the musical and took students’ questions.
The annual raffle-style contest selects one middle or high school in the Connecticut-based station’s listening area to host a Broadway performance for the students, said Janice Portentoso, communications director for the station. The grand prize winners get the performance and students from the audience are chosen for other prizes, including tickets to see the show.
“As school budgets are shrinking, we feel the need to support arts and culture more than ever,” she said. “This is a fun way to bring some attention to school music programs.”
Chorale Director Richard Magale said his students were excited to get the opportunity to “experience Broadway.” They were also able to ask questions of the actors after the performance and some students were invited backstage to mingle with the actors afterward.
Kayleigh Rall, 13, of Islip, ran into the “green” room from the lacrosse field still in her team uniform and belted out a verse from “I Will Survive” for Domenech, 31, who plays Drew in “Rock of Ages.”
“That’s amazing,” he encouraged her, after calling over his cast members. “She’s 13! Don’t you lose that!”
Gabby Fernandes, 12, of Islip, said the performance was “spectacular.” She’s been to one Broadway show before - “Beauty and the Beast” when she was 5 years old - and was excited to relive the experience at her own school.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, we got to get someone from Broadway to perform in our little school,’” she said.
Mackenzie Dymek, 12, of Islip, danced for 10 years and plays two instruments. She said she was impressed by the performance and intrigued by a future in performing arts.
“They made it seem like it was effortless and they made it seem so fun,” she said. “It sounds like something I’d want to pursue.”
Domenech was happy to participate in the program because he remembers how motivating it was to meet professional performers while he was still in school and wondering if that was his path.
He said the middle school performance was more intimate than a Broadway stage and he felt like he had an impact on the students.
“You start talking and the room just hushes,” he said. “You connect with them on a more personal level because they’re not just paying for a show. We’re here to educate them, so it’s nice to be able to pass on years of information to them and hopefully inspire some of them to follow their dreams.”
Photo caption: Cast members from the Broadway musical "Rock of Ages" perform for students at Islip Middle School. Pictured from left are: Cody Scott Lancaster, Josephine Roberts, Dan Domenech, Tessa Alves, Valerie Stanois and MiG Ayesa. (May 24, 2011)