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Broadway Pros Named Co-Chairs Of The Musical Theatre Department At Westinghouse Arts Acadmeny

Teachers use their extensive Broadway contacts to enrich classroom and on-stage learning.

As in a lot of things, it matters who you know. And at Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School - a tuition-free public arts school near Pittsburgh - teachers Lindsey Carothers and Jarrett Reiche know everybody. Reiche works for the legendary Binder Casting - which cast the original 1999 Broadway production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

Westinghouse students who were working on their own production of "Charlie Brown" were in for a huge surprise. Suddenly everybody stopped, and a giant TV was wheeled onstage. The students went from puzzlement to amazement in seconds, when a Zoom call with Broadway legends Anthony Rapp (Original "Charlie Brown" 1999 Bway Revival) and Ilana Levine (Original "Lucy" 1999 Bway Revival) began.

"We turned the TV around, and the kids went wild," says Reiche. "There was a notification that Anthony Rapp was on. He's on 'Star Trek' on television and originated Roger in 'Rent.' Students just grabbed each other and started screaming. They were freaking out."

Rapp and Levine got to talk about originating these parts with Westinghouse Arts students, and their own personal journeys into the lives of these characters. Of all the productions in the world of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown," nobody else in the world got this kind of first-person insight into auditioning, getting the part and telling such a beautifully simple story every night.

Westinghouse Arts Academy Theatre students are also working on the Northeastern premiere of "Gavroche," a pop-rock musical prequel to "Les Miserables" written by Bonnie Gleicher - told from the perspective of adolescents in Victor Hugo's famous book.

"We thought it would be an amazing opportunity for the students to learn what it's like to workshop a new musical, creating their own take on the characters, and taking notes from the composer herself," says Reiche. "Working on a new show has different challenges than an already existing musical, and we want the students to experience building something new."

"Our students are getting to originate a role -- that's not something you get to do unless you're in New York," says Westinghouse teacher Lindsey Brett Carothers, who has vast Broadway experience, performing in shows like "Bring it On: The Musical'' and "Wicked."

Another bonus for Westinghouse students was a visit from Sarah Cooney, renown NYC Casting Director who has worked on many Broadway shows as well as the movie "The Big Sick."

"She graciously volunteered her time to work with our students because she is a co-worker of mine and a dear friend," says Reiche. "We are doing everything we can to provide as many incredible opportunities for these students as possible. Sarah worked with the students and gave them industry insight on how to stand out in an audition when you only have about a minute to make an impression."

"We have plans to bring more experiences like this to the students at Westinghouse--giving them direct access to Broadway industry members," adds Carothers.

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