Paul inspires Players students with visit


By Daniel Harizman ’19

As Staples Players students congregated in the auditorium on Friday, Mar. 9, student chatter pervaded the room, and students prepared for the upcoming act: this time, not one of their own. Three vacant lemon yellow cushioned chairs sat downstage center. As the tech crew dimmed the lights and focused the spotlights, David Roth and Kerry Long, co-theater department heads, welcomed Staples Alumnus Justin Paul ’03 to the stage, the students erupted.

Paul has gained national recognition over the past decade from his composing work in big time broadway and box-office hits including Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, and the Greatest Showman. This past award season alone, Paul, and his composing partner Benj Pasek, secured a Tony Award and a Grammy Award for their work in Dear Evan Hansen, and a Golden Globe Award for their original song, “This is me” from the Greatest Showman.”

“It was such an amazing experience having him come and talk to us,” Amanda Samuels ’19 said. “It is so cool to think about how in 2003 he was on that stage doing the same show that we’re doing now.”

The discussion with Paul came a week prior to the Players’ opening night performance of the musical “Merrily We Roll Along.” Paul remarked that “Merrily” was in fact his favorite performance at Staples. “I think it’s a really interesting show to be doing at this time in your life,” Paul said to the students.

Aside from being involved in the acting sector of Players, Paul was also the student musical director, and played the piano in many different plays.

“I really don’t think anybody else did the same type of thing [Justin] did,” Roth said.

After the formal question and answer session with Paul, he invited students up on stage for a sing along to two of his most famous hits, “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen, and “This Is Me” from the Greatest Showman.

“The sing along was amazing,” Juliette Schwebel ’19 said. “It was life changing to be onstage with an award winning artist from our own high school,” she continued. “It’s crazy to think that that could be one of us one day.”

Paul inspires Players students with visit