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Social Distancing Doesn't Stop Kids From Making It On Broadway

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Social Distancing Doesn't Stop Kids From Making It On Broadway

BOCA RATON, FL - For most South Florida kids, summer is often associated with hitting the beach or the occasional outing to Disney World. But for musical theater students, summer is usually filled with camps and intensives to hone their skills as actors, singers, and dancers-often indoors and in tight-knit cohorts. Following the spread of COVID-19, theater training programs throughout South Florida were faced with the challenge of maintaining a safe and sanitary environment for students to reach their Broadway dreams.

Jodie Langel, founder and CEO of Making It On Broadway, has been conducting audition prep intensives for young artists since 2005. In these six-day intensives, students ages 10 through 18 learn how to build their audition rep books, apply acting techniques to their songs, and master the dance call.

Langel's intensives are supplemented by masterclasses from Broadway veterans. While these guest artists usually work with students in person, this year's cohort of Broadway performers conducted their masterclasses via Zoom. Students were able to learn from performers such as Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid, The Phantom of the Opera), Rob McClure (Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire), Grey Henson (Mean Girls, The Book of Mormon) Jennifer Gambatese (School of Rock, Tarzan) and Making It On Broadway alumna Erika Henningsen (Mean Girls, Les Miserables).

Making It On Broadway is currently the only South Florida program to conduct an in-person intensive during the shutdown. While most Making It On Broadway intensives usually take place in dance studios or rehearsal halls, this year's intensive took place at the Boca Raton Marriott hotel, rotating between a ballroom and a covered outdoor courtyard. Physical distancing measures were strictly enforced. Students also were subject to temperature checks, and all personnel were required to wear face masks when not singing. All common surfaces have been sprayed and sanitized after use, and students were required to wash and sanitize their hands after lunch and breaks.

Alexa Lasanta, 13, is one of the 29 students who took part in this intensive. Lasanta is no stranger to the stage, having appeared on the National Tour of The Sound of Music, and in regional productions of Annie (The Wick, North Carolina Theatre), Fun Home (Zoetic Stage), The Secret Garden (Slow Burn Theatre Company) and Brighton Beach Memoirs (Maltz Jupiter Theatre). However, she was starstruck when she had the opportunity to sing "Oh Biology" from Freaky Friday for Henningsen. "Two summers ago I saw Mean Girls for the first time on Broadway. A year ago I received a video from [Henningsen] wishing me good luck with my show Annie. I would have never thought that today I would get to sing for her."

One perk of Langel's intensive is her unique ability to select repertoire that is not frequently performed in the audition room. This allows high school seniors like Maddie Bain, 17, to stand out from the crowd when auditioning for college musical theater programs. "[Langel] gave me all my songs for my college auditions, and they're all so good because no one else has them."

At the end of the intensive, students will be given the opportunity to participate in a real audition for casting directors and other industry professionals. This is 16-year-old Elijah Zurek's first in-person audition since the shutdown took effect in March. Like the other students enrolled in Making It On Broadway, Zurek hopes to make a good impression for the auditors behind the table."In the past, our students have gotten agents and booked professional work from the final auditions," says Langel. This year, students showcased their best songs for Alison Franck (Franck Casting), Pamela Fisher (Abrams Artists) and Patrick Fitzwater (Slow Burn Theatre Company). Franck frequently turns to Making It On Broadway when selecting talent for the national tour of A Christmas Story: The Musical, as does Fisher when casting projects with Abrams Artists. Fitzwater hopes to cast some talented young performers for Slow Burn's productions of Mary Poppins, Ragtime and Kinky Boots during their 2020-2021 season.

Langel is optimistic about her socially-distanced Making It On Broadway intensives. In addition to the summer intensive (which concluded this past Saturday), Making It On Broadway will host a winter intensive, with dates and venues to be announced in the future. For more information on Making It On Broadway, please visit makingitonbroadway.net. Be sure to follow Making It On Broadway on Facebook and Instagram.


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From This Author David McKibbin