YMCA Theater Camp Moves from Shakespeare to Les Misérables

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|  by Zoe Kaplan  | For the past 10 years, local director Peter Royston has brought numerous Shakespeare productions into the Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow community. From As You Like It to Romeo and Juliet, tweens and teens alike have not only performed but also learned the magic of Shakespeare. However, this year moves away from “Shakespeare in the Park.” The 2015 production is neither Shakespeare or in the park: Royston is taking a more musical direction, as Les Misérables comes to the Sleepy Hollow stage.

Why such a change of pace? Two years ago, when the older troupe performed Henry IV Part I and II, the actors were in a sense “addicted” to Les Misérables. Barbara Turk, long-time producer of the camp, recalled many moments when the actors used their free time to sing songs from the show. Royston also has a strong connection to the show, as he worked for the General Manager of the Broadway production in 1986. Not only was he able to work with the actors, but he also got the opportunity to see every performance during its first year.

There’s more than a change from drama to musical. This year, the camp welcomes many new staff members: musical director Maria Jacobi, pianist Steve Tubin, pit orchestra director Neal Spitzer, set and costume designers Joel Sherry and Stewart Lee, and Gina Lamparella, who performed in the 10th anniversary Broadway company of Les Misérables. The camp is also extended a week, and will be performed in the Sleepy Hollow High School auditorium instead of Patriot’s Park, as the show requires some specialized equipment.

However, there are many components of the camp that will remain the same. The YMCA, with the lead of Turk, will continue to administer the camp. The YMCA has produced the camp for all of its now 11 years – helping advertising and marketing, sourcing the staff, handling registration, and providing the rehearsal space. Also, as in last year’s production of Romeo and Juliet, there will be a live pit orchestra joining the cast. Much of the orchestra is made up of teens in the community, and, as mentioned before, will be directed by elementary school band teacher Neal Spitzer. Most importantly, the same energy will be present in the rehearsals and productions. Actors in the community come back year after year, just like the staff – some on their fifth, sixth and seventh years.

“The reason we keep coming back is the chance to work with these amazing young people! Some of them have been in the program for years, growing in confidence and ability and their joy in storytelling! To be a part of that learning process is very exciting,” Royston said.

Les Misérables will be performed on July 31, August 1, and August 2 in the Sleepy Hollow High School Auditorium.

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