A novice theater troupe is spreading its wings after a successful spring debut and is gearing up for another production this weekend.
The Theatre Group at All Saints Catholic Academy was founded in May for the school’s “The Wizard of Oz Young Performer's Edition,” the first main-stage musical ever at ASCA.
A cast of 78 performers aged four to 14 years old somehow melded into a cohesive and well-received production, and the group has decided to stage another young take on a classic musical, “Annie Jr.”
“After the great success of that (first) show, me and my partner, Luisa Sauter, decided to bring about the Summer on the Stage Program,” said Sandra Gonzalez, “Annie Jr.” director.
Sauter performed with Gonzalez earlier this year in the Park Theatre’s “Passion Play.” Sauter played Mary, the Mother of God, and Gonzalez, Veronica, the woman said to have wiped Jesus’s face with her veil as he carried the cross.
The Summer Stage is an intensive five-week program designed to teach young performers not only the fundamentals of theater and acting, but also to prepare them for a complete musical theater experience.
With those goals in mind, Gonzalez and Sauter developed a two-fold workshop based on skills work and comprehension, as well as the complexities of putting on a show.
“Our main goal is to show that theater is alive and needed in Bayonne, especially children's theater,” Gonzalez said.
The production of “Annie Jr.” will not only include students from All Saints Catholic Academy, but from public schools in Bayonne as well.
Gonzalez believes that back-to-back successful productions of the two musicals will help spread the word about this fledgling theater troupe. But she said the group is not just about performing.
“We want the community to see that theater is not just about putting on a show, but about building a close-knit community,” Gonzalez said.
The group recently moved its theater operations downtown to the Saint Andrew's School gym and Gonzalez thanked Mike O'Rourke for his help with that, as well as the Rev. Peter Worley, who shares the group’s vision—started with the Wizard of Oz—that the theater troupe can be a viable entity in the city.
“Hopefully with ‘Annie Jr.’ we will build an even stronger following,” Gonzalez said.
More successes may be on the horizon for the group, as it was recently awarded a grant from Macy's to stage “Yes, Virginia the Musical” this holiday season.
“That show is about the famous ‘Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus’ letter,’” Gonzalez said, based on the much-heralded response of a newspaper editor to a child’s question.
“After that, we are hoping to continue with a spring musical and another summer intensive,” Gonzalez said.
For tickets to “Annie Jr.,” go to seatyourself.biz/asca. Performances are Friday, Aug. 15 and Saturday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 17 at 2 p.m.
For more information on the theater troupe, or on “Annie Jr.,” visit https://www.facebook.com/thetheatregroup.E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.