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Jul 27, 2010 12:08 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Broadway beckons for these campers

Jul 27, 2010 12:08 PM

Guys and dolls of a theatrical bent across the East End will have the opportunity to turn the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center into their own personal Great White Way come August, as Camp Broadway sashays into town for the first year, bringing along a special guest Broadway producer and a week-long program designed to crank out a performance-ready cast of thespians in just five days.

The week will include workshops for campers to work on dancing, singing and acting, building to a climactic student inspired gypsy showcase and an abridged performance of “Guys and Dolls.”

“It’s really exciting for us to go to a new place and design a camp that will fit that space perfectly,” said Camp Broadway’s Holly Raye who will direct and choreograph the show. Ms. Raye spent 25 years as a professional actress in Manhattan that included performing in the 1992 revival of “Guys and Dolls,” starring Nathan Lane and Faith Prince.

Making a one-day appearance will be Tony Ponturo, the producer of the Tony Award-winning musical “Memphis” and the 2009 revival of “Hair.”

Over the past 15 years, New York City-based Camp Broadway has worked with more than 10,000 children from all over the planet at its annual summer camps held both in New York City and in other locations across the United States.

The camp will run from Monday, August 9, through Friday, August 13, and is open to any child—no prior experience necessary—from age 11 to 17.

Summer theater camps are nothing new for the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. But the push for one that emphasizes Broadway show tunes came from hearing students at lunchtime singing songs from “Rent” and chattering about “Wicked,” according to Julienne Penza, the arts education program manager for the center.

“We’re really thrilled that it’s our first time doing this.” Ms. Penza said. “We want our children to join our programs and grow with us and we want to grow with them.” The camp will expand the age groups usually accepted into the center’s camps.

On day one, campers will dive right in, learning the signature Camp Broadway Finale number and basic choreography. “They are saturated with all this work and they go home and they really have it,” Ms. Raye said. “Then we’re able to move on and complete pieces.”

Each camper is encouraged to share his or her talents with the staff to ensure that all the performers are featured in one way or another. By Wednesday, almost the entire show has been learned. Two professional 
actors from New York City will play Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide.

“I think it’s more overwhelming for us, the staff, than the kids,” Ms. Raye said.

All the week’s efforts will be offered up on Friday to an audience of friends and family members. “It’s a condensed version,” Ms. Raye said, assuring the audience they will still 
hear some of the more memorable songs from the show and 
the story line will be clear. 
“The choreography that’s in it 
really propels the story forward.”

Before the performance will be a gypsy showcase in which students will perform a two-song “mash-up” of their own creation that they will work on during the week in preselected groups. In the past, memorable performances in the showcase have included mixing a song from “Hair” with one from “Godspell.” The “mash-ups” are similar to the pieces performed on the Fox network television show, “Glee.”

The term “gypsy” refers to the ensemble players in the cast. “They are the root and integrity of any show,” said Ms. Raye. “Gypsy showcases have always been a part of Camp Broadway and allow a special level of self expression.”

Camp Broadway staff members will work with the campers for five days, but hope the lessons last much longer.

“The things they learn here are life skills,” Ms. Raye said, referencing the collaboration and discipline students will begin to understand better over the course of the camp.

“On Friday, when it’s time to put on the show,” the director said, “it really comes alive.”

Camp Broadway will be held Monday, August 9, through Friday, August 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Main Street in Westhampton Beach. The program is open to young people of all skill levels and costs $750. To register, call Cheryl Wheeler at 288-2350, ext. 102, or email CherylW@whbpac.org.

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