When Ardsley Middle School students and performers Evan Macedo and Michael Manzi first heard they were staging Anne of Green Gables this spring, they were a little sceptical.
"I thought it was a girls' show at first," Macedo admitted. "But it's not. It's A LOT of fun, and everyone can enjoy it."
Fourth through ninth-graders from all four Rivertowns are performing in the show, which opens Friday.
"We are thrilled with this production," said Fiona Santos, co-director of Anne of Green Gables. "We are lucky to have very smart young actors, who are committed to the craft. They understand how to ask questions and make connections to script, which really shows on stage."
The staged version of Anne of Green Gables premiered in 2002, and is about an orphan (Anne) who is sent to live with a man and his sister on Prince Edward island. Unfortunately, though, the couple had asked for a boy who could help with farm labor, but ultimately they decide to keep Anne because of her spunk and imagination.
"The show is about finding and making a home in a very specific rural setting," Santos said.
The kids are equally effusive in describing the show.
"It's a tragedy and a comedy together," said student Jennie Gorn. "It's a funny tragedy-musical." Gorn is especially excited to play the role of a professor because, "I don't usually play grown-up parts because of my size. It was kind-of hard at first, but I was able to ease into it."
Macedo is most looking forward to a scene in which Anne breaks a slate over his head. "I love getting hurt on stage," he said. "Stage combat is a lot of fun."
Santos and her co-director Jason Brantman stressed that Broadway Training Center is not just about the shows. "Our program is about developing skills and growing as actors," Santos said. All performers must be enrolled in at least one voice or acting class and one dance class at the center.
"Our philosophy is, 'Building character on and off stage,'" Brantman said. "It's actors who know how to be respectful of each other and work well as part of an ensemble who get jobs in the field."
Another aspect of their philosophy is not always selecting the same kids for lead roles.
"Even if you don't have the largest part, everyone is very supportive when you're on stage," said Eva Ury, who attends the in Dobbs Ferry. "And if you're the lead in one show, you won't be in the next; that way everyone gets a chance."
Choreographer John Scacchetti is both a professional dancer and choreographer, who has performed most recently in Broadway revivals of Gypsy and 42nd Street. "I love working with BTC because the kids are like mini-professionals," he said. "They respond like adults; you can give them critique and they can handle it and produce what you want."
Besides learning their lines, the nuances of their characters' speech and wearing costumes and makeup to sound and look authentic, these kids take it one step further.
Ardsley High School freshman Marina Sneider, who plays Anne "spent two hours in a salon having her hair dyed red."
Now that's dedication to her art!
See 'Anne of Green Gables' at the Irvington Town Hall Theater on Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. After Sunday's performance the show's writer and composer, Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, will attend and then hold a Q&A after the show. All members of the audience are welcome to stay.
Learn more about the Broadway Training Center and their shows and classes on their website. BTC is now enrolling for their summer and fall sessions.