This summer, a Jackson parish turned to the fine arts to instruct its youth with a lively beat. The St. Aloysius Kids Musical Theater Camp offered the parish’s littlest members lessons in music, dance and theater exercises which combined the Christian values of perseverance, teamwork and cooperation with a hefty dose of fun.
The inaugural St. Aloysius Kids Musical Theater Camp was held weekday mornings beginning July 11 at the Ocean County parish where thirty children ranging in age from 7 to 13 were schooled in performance arts such as audition techniques, vocal production, acting and dancing. The culmination of the two-week theater camp was a July 22 production where the budding stars lent their talents to musical numbers from Broadway shows such as “Hairspray”, “Oliver”, “Peter Pan” and “Seussical.” Skits based upon the classic fairy tales Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and others were presented to family and friends by the young thespians.
“Our pastor, Father Scott [Father Scott Shaffer] is very musical and thought this would be a fun thing to do,” explained parishioner Olive Taylor. To institute the tuition-based program, Father Shaffer enlisted the help of new parish organist Cindy Dwyer, a Fine and Performing Arts staff member at Mater Dei Prep, New Monmouth. Dwyer, the winner of the 2011 Basie Theater award for outstanding direction of a Monmouth County high school musical, was experienced in tutoring youngsters in theatre and music. “I’ve done this [program] before with kids at the Strand for six years,” Dwyer said, describing her work at the Lakewood theater. “I was interested to see what would happen [at St. Aloysius]; I wanted to dip my toe in the water.”
Dwyer assembled a staff of recent college graduates working as vocalists, directors and choreographers to work with the youngsters during the two-week program. In addition to small group instruction, each camper was given a t-shirt and notebook to assist them at future auditions. Dwyer was gratified at the camp’s success with the youngsters and predicted the program will expand in future years. “We got lots of really positive feedback,” she recalled. “Maybe next summer we’ll do a junior show.”
Enthusiastic young campers saw the program as a stepping stone to the Great White Way, aka Broadway. Seven-year-old Courtney Coon reflected, “I love to dance, sing and perform, so my mom thought the St. Al’s camp would be perfect for me, and it was! I hope to one day be the next American Idol or sing on a big stage in New York City.”
Chloe Grochowski sharpened her acting and singing chops; the eight-year-old recounted, “I really love to sing, dance and act. St. Aloysius Music Theater Camp helped me conquer my fear of standing in front of an audience to sing. I feel confident and proud to stand up on stage.”
Fellow eight-year-old future thespian or musician Allison Volltrauer took home a dose of self-confidence. She remembered, “I had so much fun… I was so nervous for the show but my Mom said you couldn’t even tell. I can’t wait to go again next summer.”
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