CenterStage Academy Gives Young Actors Starring Roles on Stage

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Sarah Dailey, 12, was hard at work at the JCC rehearsing for her role as Ariel in CenterStage Academy’s upcoming production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr.

She’s been rehearsing with the rest of the cast – 18 children ranging in age from 8-14 years old – since October to prepare for public performances on Thursday, April 10, and Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 13 at 2 p.m.

All the time, energy and effort has been worth it, she believes.

“I just love acting,” she said. “I might want to be on Broadway someday.”

CenterStage Academy exists to give children like Dailey a chance to start early working toward such dreams.

The academy is a youth theatre arts program specializing in quality training for the child performer in singing, acting and dancing – the only one of its kind in Louisville.

“I don’t know of any local group that does full-scale music theatre for kids,” said John Leffert, CenterStage Artistic Director.

He started the academy 11 years ago because he saw “a lack of quality training for kids in music theatre,” he said.

Music Theatre Louisville was a nonprofit company that offered some roles for youth for more than a decade but shuttered after its 2011 season. Walden Theatre and Blue Apple Players, which recently announced a merger, provide theatre education, but don’t focus solely on musical theatre.

Over the years, the academy has been consistently successful, Leffert said, and its summer camps have grown in particular.

There are children who have gone on to win roles in companies around town, including CenterStage. Academy alum Samantha Cutler toured nationally with Broadway Across America’s Billy Elliot.

The academy doesn’t do auditions, children can just sign up. The semester gives them a solid foundation in singing, dancing and acting, Leffert said. Even if they don’t pursue theatre further, the experience builds life skills, like public speaking, composure and teamwork.

And, the show is entertaining for theatre-goers too, he said, especially children. There are a full set, costumes and all the makings of live musical theatre.

For Dailey, it’s a chance to shine.

“I like portraying another character and that you get to have that different experience,” she said.

This summer, CenterStage Academy will hold four 2-week camps during JCC Summer Camp, Spotlight Youth Musical Theater for Kindergardners June 16-27, Grades 1-2 July 14-24, Grades 3-4 June 30-July 11 and Spotlight on GLEE Camp for Grades 5-7 July 28-August 8.

Next season, CenterStage Academy will present Seussical, Jr., The Box and Ready, Set Audition. Programs start in October. Seussical, Jr. is for children ages 7-17, The Box is for ages 4-6 and Ready, Set, Audition is for ages 8-18.


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