Broadway Rumble Lights Up Tarrytown Stage

Lookout neighbors: Street gangs are about to hit Tarrytown! Well, the Tarrytown Music Hall anyway. They’re the Jets and the Sharks, and these rival ruffians will win you over with sensational song and dance in Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s musical classic, West Side Story.

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Lighthouse Youth Theater Director John Fanelli at rehearsal.

Westchester County’s experienced and highly acclaimed Artistic Director John Fanelli has wowed audiences at numerous venues in Westchester and around the country and developed a loyal following of young thespians. Now Fanelli has started his own company called The Lighthouse Youth Theatre in Tarrytown where kids from ages 5 to 19 can train with one of the best youth educators around. "I’ve worked for other non-profit theatre organizations for 15 years, and I decided it was time to start my own company with unique programs," says Fanelli. "I have great support from a new board and Tarrytown Music Hall seems like the perfect fit."

13-year old Brittanie Burke of Irvington worked with the theatre veteran in two productions at Westchester Broadway Theatre last year and says she’s thrilled to reunite with him. "What’s great about John is that no matter how old you are or what your part is, everyone gets a turn in the spotlight." And unlike many local theatre groups, Fanelli isn’t all about making money, he’s all about educating and creating a healthy learning environment. Whether your kid is Broadway bound or can’t hit a note, has a lead or is in the chorus, Fanelli says everyone is treated as an equal. "This is not the star system. My philosophy is that every single person is just as important as the lead. Learning the fundamentals and being in the ensemble is an art form in itself."

Lighthouse’s dedicated kids come from all over Westchester and Putnam Counties, and even Connecticut to rehearse West Side Story three to four nights a week plus all day Saturdays. Poughkeepsie Senior Nikki DeRosa plays the sultry latina "Maria" in this teenage urban love story that gives a modern spin to the age-old classic "Romeo and Juliet." DeRosa and her two sisters Sammi and Joanna, who are also in the show, drive more than an hour each way and often do their homework in the car. "Maria has always been my dream role. It’s worth the extra effort to work with John and to be in such a great show," says DeRosa. Fourteen year old Chelsea Burger of Tarrytown is "Anita," Maria’s best friend and admits learning a Puerto Rican accent is harder than she thought, "It’s tough to combine the accent, acting, and difficult dancing into one show, but I’m really enjoying the challenge."

You’ll be wowed by the choreography, and re-live the 1950’s version with classic songs like "America," "I Feel Pretty," and "Somewhere." Lighthouse presents West Side Story October 27th with two school performances, then Saturday the 28th at 8 pm, and Sunday the 29th at 2pm. For the younger set, The Lighthouse Youth Theatre also presents Annie, Jr. at the Tarrytown Music Hall on Monday October 30th at 5 & 7 p.m. For tickets go to www.tarrytownmusichall.org. The Lighthouse Youth Theatre also offers classes in acting, singing, and dance, and coming in January a comprehensive after school arts program. For more information call (914) 245-2742.

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About the Author: Lisa Bryant