Interview: Choreographer, Cari Sanchez of DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS at The Growing Stage

Choreographer, Cari Sanchez of DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS

By: Apr. 13, 2023
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Interview: Choreographer, Cari Sanchez of DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS at The Growing Stage

The Growing Stage (TGS), The Children's Theatre of New Jersey, located in the Historic Palace Theatre in Netcong will present their final mainstage production of the 2022-2023 season, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus The Musical! from May 5 to May 21 with performances on Saturdays at 4:00 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM and a special Opening Night Performance on Friday, May 5th at 7:30 PM.

The show is based on the book "Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus" by Mo Willems, published by Hyperion Books for Children with a script by Mo Willems and Mr. Warburton, lyrics by Mo Willems, music by Deborah Wicks La Puma and dramaturgy by Megan Alrutz. The Growing Stage production is under the direction of Lori B. Lawrence, TGS's Director of Educational Programming with musical direction by Laura Petrie and choreography by Cari Sanchez. The show is recommended for the whole family.

Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing choreographer, Cari Sanchez about her career and choreographing Don't Let the pigeon Drive the Bus at The Growing Stage.

Sanchez is a born and raised Jersey girl and a graduate of Montclair State University's Theatre Program. With a vast musical theatre background she has performed in productions such as Footloose, Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Crazy for You, Parade,Tommy, Bye Bye Birdie, Peter Pan, Shrek, Pippin, Elf, and the list goes on. Cari spent 5 years working with Norwegian Cruise Line as a principal Vocalist/Dancer on various ships around the world including the Norwegian Getaway where she originated the role of Elle/Margot in Legally Blonde the Musical at sea. She also performed as the principal vocalist for the worldwide ballroom sensation Burn the Floor. She currently teaches musical theatre, voice, and dance around the North New Jersey area. She lives locally with her hubby and their two little girls. Cari is thrilled to be back at TGS, this time adding some sweet moves to the show!

When did you first realize that dance was going to be a part of your future?

My mother was a professor of dance & kinesiology, and had her own modern dance company. So, of course I went along for the ride. As a kid I wanted to be part of everything, but eventually started professionally training as a figure skater. They wanted all of the skaters to take dance classes. On my free time when I wasn't in school or on the ice, I wanted to perform. Around the age of 13, I realized all my passion was on the stage. I continued to train in dance, voice, and theatre from then on.

Tell us a little about your dance training and the theatre program at Montclair State University.

As a theatre major at Montclair State University, they wanted the students to take dance classes as well, which was perfect for me because I had dance training. I took various classes in different styles of dance, taught by Lisa Grimes (one of my favorites), and was cast in the musical Parade my freshman year under the direction of Clay James. At MSU I went on to perform in Pippin, Cabaret, and Crazy For You. Performing in these productions were by far the best experiences in my four years in college.

Do you have any favorite productions that you have performed in?

Being in a musical is invigorating. There is so much happening from hair and make up, to warm ups and sound checks, to costume changes, to singing, dancing, and acting, and above all the most rewarding part is how you feel once you receive the audiences reactions to your performance. Legally Blonde and Burn The Floor performed on the Norwegian Getaway are at the top of my favorites list.

How has being a dancer been instrumental to your career as a choreographer?

I think it would be pretty difficult trying to choreograph anything without dance experience. I thank my parents for starting me in dance early and keeping me in those ballet classes! Having a dance background of different styles has opened up performing and teaching opportunities. I've been teaching and choreographing at the North Jersey School of Dance Arts in Hackettstown and I am thrilled to be choreographing my first theatre production at The Growing Stage.

How do you like working at The Growing Stage?

The Growing Stage is a wonderful professional children's theatre in North New Jersey. I've performed in productions as well as stopped in to guest teach workshops. The people at the Growing Stage are amazing to work along side with. They produce so many shows that attract a wide variety of audiences. My experiences at The Growing Stage have been lovely and memorable, which is why I didn't hesitate to jump on another opportunity with them.

As an artist and mother, why do you think children's theatre is so important?

The Performing Arts are incredibly vital for our children. Being a mother of two little girls, they always thrive around music in general. Theatre is just another way to bring everything to life in front of their eyes. Music brings a type of magic into their little bodies and boosts creativity. My girls have been to a few productions at The Growing Stage and they always ask "When can we go again!?"

What would you like audiences to know about Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus?

Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is a smart, funny, visually captivating musical for kids. The cast is wonderful and the music is great! Some children, like my 5 year old, have already read the children's book, so she can't wait to see it on stage! This is a show/experience not to be missed!

The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of New Jersey is located at 7 Ledgewood Ave, Netcong, NJ 07857. Ticket prices for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus are $28 for adults, $22 for seniors and $18 for children. To purchase tickets, please visit www.growingstage.com or call (973) 347-4946.

Photo Credit: Rachel McCluskey



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