Lots of Talent and Fun at the Gateway Theater Summer Program | down the beach

SUZANNE MARINO For the electricity

SOMERS POINT – Get ready for a little Broadway along Bay Avenue at the Gateway Playhouse and Theater with presentations of Bye Bye Birdie Jr. and Chicago, the High School Edition. The shows are the culmination of the summer camp program for more than 100 children from Atlantic and Cape May counties.

The Shining Stars program began in June with 57 children aged 9 to 13. They will present “Bye Bye Birdie Jr.” at 1pm and 6pm on August 13th and 14th. The older kids on the Rising Stars program, ages 14 to 18, will perform “Chicago” on August 5 and 6 at 1 and 6 p.m.

Both productions are directed by Phil Palitto, who said the Gateway to the Arts camp programs at the Gateway Playhouse and Theater were able to accommodate over 100 local children for the six-week program and had a long waiting list of aspiring actors. Karen Cleighton is the choreographer and Claire Collins is the vocal coach. Kevin McCafferty is the technical director. Kathy Ford is the musical director of Bye Bye Birdie and Debbie Rolland is the musical director of Chicago.

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“Our goal here at Gateway to the Arts is to create a program that empowers children through theatre. We accept children with different experiences. For some, this will be their first exposure to theater, while others may be seasoned veterans. Using their experience as a starting point, we work to enable students to develop strong levels of comfort that surpass on stage,” said Palitto.

The director said he chose these productions because they suited the children so well. “Birdie is just fun,” says Palitto. “It’s a classic musical that takes us back to a simpler time when kids would focus on the latest record album or join a fan club. For our high school students, “Chicago” compels us to confront the power of the media and its impact on our justice system and our daily interactions.”

Introduced to audiences in 1960, “Bye Bye Birdie” depicts Conrad Birdie just before enlisting in the Army. Set in 1958, it loosely parallels Elvis Presley’s enlistment in 1957, at the height of his popularity. Chicago is a Bob Fosse musical set in the 1920s, featuring two vaudeville performers and murderers. The show debuted in 1975.

Both shows are double cast to allow more actors to shine on stage. From the Rising Star program and the production of Chicago, Mason Naman and Christian Horning-Finneran share the role of Amos Hart.

Naman, 15, from Northfield, said: “I love this show and this camp. It’s a small show and every experience is fun.

Horning-Finneran said, “‘Chicago’ was so great. It’s always fun to become someone else, and isn’t that the point of acting?”

Morgan Murphy and Rosalyn Driscoll share the role of Velma on Chicago.

Murphy of Margate said, “I’ve done more than 20 shows, but ‘Chicago’ is my dream show. I’m so lucky to be able to do this with so many of my good friends.”

Driscoll, 16, from Northfield, said: “I love this show and I love it here at the Gateway.”

Vincent Piratin and Alex Manzo share the role of seedy lawyer Billy Flynn. Both enjoy their time on stage.

Pirate, 16, from Margate, and a rising junior at Ocean City High School, said, “We’re all friends here and we all look up to one another and we all challenge one another to do great work.”

Alex Manzo, 18, of Egg Harbor Township, said: “I had to come back here this summer, the Gateway is where it is. Nothing can top this experience.”

Manzo will be going to Stockton University in a few weeks to study drama.

Linwood’s Ella Osbeck recently graduated from Mainland Regional High School and is going to College of New Jersey to study special education and voice, but she still wanted to enjoy another summer program at Gateway.

“It’s so much fun here. Everyone works so well together, it’s like a family atmosphere,” she said.

Osbeck has the role of Roxy in “Chicago”.

Aubrey Culbert, 18, of Egg Harbor Township, shares the role of Roxy.

“This is my fourth Gateway show and it was so much fun,” she said.

Culbert studies Musical Theater and Design at Rowan University. She got her taste in the stage a few years ago while doing make-up for “Shrek”.

The cast of Bye Bye Birdie gain confidence and hone their acting skills.

Patrick Mularz, 11, of Linwood, and Austin Lasher, 11, of Cape May Court House share the role of Conrad Birdie. Both agreed that not only do they learn a lot about the stage over the summer, but they also have a great time.

It was a real treat for the cast of “Chicago” to spend the morning with Colt Weiss of the National Touring Company of Chicago. Weis presented the cast with a master class, hearing what it’s like from a seasoned pro and seeing some Bob Fosse dance numbers.

Tickets for Bye Bye Birdie and Chicago are $15 and available at gatewaybythebay.org/UpcomingShows.cfm or by calling 609-653-0553.

The Gateway Theater and Playhouse is located at 738 Bay Ave.

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