Aspiring actors get their taste of the limelight

Theatre students from three different Bronx schools enjoyed a moment of fame last Monday, May 17, on one of the biggest stages there is: Broadway.

Theatre kids from PS/MS 4 Crotona Park West, JHS 80 Mosholu Parkway, and MS 331 Bronx School of Science Inquiry and Investigation joined young actors from 16 other New York City schools to perform at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre in the Manhattan theatre district. Each school performed one big song from their own musical. Most schools are putting on the plays this week or weekend, sometime between May 27 and June 1.

The performance, which is called a “share” (because the casts of each play are “sharing” one selection from the musical), was made possible thanks to a two-year musical theatre mentorship program sponsored by the Shubert Foundation, the New York City Department of Education, and Music Theatre International. The program is produced by iTheatrics and ArtsConnection. Nancy Cashman, theatre instructor at MS 331, was especially thrilled about the grant.

“We got an adviser to come and give us the book, the libretto, we got everything we needed. Then we staged our first big musical last year. Lots of schools have theatre class, but this is theatre class plus,” she said. “The day at the Majestic was a wonderful thing for the students.”

Cashman’s students, who will soon put on the play Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, went with the song “I Got a Golden Ticket” for the Majestic performance.

Disney’s own Corbin Bleu, who is from Brooklyn and acted in the movie High School Musical, served as the Master of Ceremonies.

Kids were excited by his presence, to say the least. But nothing could get them more pumped up than standing on the Majestic stage.

“I was so excited to be on a stage that Broadway actors have performed on,” said Djibril Diabate, of MS 4. Diabate, who friends and teachers call Bril, played the lead in last year’s play, Seussical, and played the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland this year.

“Some day I can look at my kids and tell them, I was on a Broadway stage,” he added.

Gabriella Brito, of MS 331, plays the spoiled little girl Veruca Salt in their upcoming show. Her friend and fellow 7th-grader Stefani Sanchez plays Veruca’s mother. It’s an awkward situation, admitted Stefani: “Gabriella is older than me, and even kind of taller than me, so it’s a little weird. But we make it fun.”

Fun is what was had in spades on May 17. It was a day many of the kids had worked hard for, rehearsing these past few months, and won’t soon forget.

“This has been such a neat opportunity for the kids to learn Broadway music,” said Nancy Cashman. “I feel like opportunities have really opened up for these students that wouldn’t have presented themselves otherwise.”

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or

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