Activities return as Drayton opens new youth academy
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Activities return as Drayton opens new youth academy

After a two-year gap due to the pandemic, young performers will be back on stage for Drayton’s Broadway Boot Camp. [Submitted]

After a long time away from what they love, young performers are back singing, dancing and acting for a live audience, all while learning the musical world of Broadway alongside their peers.

Drayton Entertainment’s new youth academy will open its doors for the first-time next month, welcoming in the region’s kids and teens with their new March Break Broadway Boot Camp.

“It’s been a few years. We are so excited to see them,” said David Connolly, the director of education for the new youth academy.

“The kids who were 9 and 11 when we last met have now grown into teens and many of those teens that we knew back then, they’re in college. So, we’ve seen them kind of grow up but it’s just fascinating that we were jumping ahead two years of their life and development, so what I’m most excited about is to reacquaint ourselves with where they’re at.”

It’s been exactly two years since Drayton Entertainment had to shut down all productions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This March, they’re hoping to come back strong with the opening of their youth academy, which will see some returning faces as well as some new ones.

“It’s a 10,000-square-foot, two-storey hub. There are eight studios. There’s administration. There’s the kitchen, green room area to do homework and have your lunch. The silver lining of the pandemic was that we really got to focus time on figuring out how to have all of the toys in the sandbox that you need to inspire these kids,” said Connolly.

Located at 145 Northfield Dr. in Waterloo, the youth academy is home to brand new rehearsal halls with natural light the march break campers will get to experience first. It also boasts state of the art sound and screen systems as well as a water bottle hydration station.

Children aged 9 to 11 can attend the Disney on Broadway Boot Camp where they will learn four major production numbers from classic Disney movies such as Frozen and Encanto. Teens 12 to 18 can attend the Broadway Blockbusters Boot Camp where they learn four production numbers from mega-hit Broadway shows such as Wicked or Come From Away. Both camps will run from March 14 to 18, with a showcase performance to end the week.

“We know kids and teens are always looking for fun things to do during the break, and with so many extracurricular activities cancelled during the pandemic, students are missing the arts more than ever,” says Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment,in a release. “Our Broadway Boot Camps are uniquely designed to cultivate young talent, connect young performers and give them the chance to hone their skills for future success. Plus, they will have such a great time together in person, and that connection is so important.”

Connolly comes to the kids and teens with a resume full of experience that they can learn from such as numerous productions with Drayton Entertainment. Previously he has worked as an adjunct professor, director, and advisor to the musical theatre performance programs at several Ontario colleges. He holds an honours bachelor degree in Musical Theatre Performance from Sheridan College and was a recipient of the Premier of Ontario’s Award for Excellence. Connolly is also well known for being the only amputee to ever perform on Broadway.

“We know they’re happiest when they’re busy. So, we’re going to do a production number each day, to give them real insight into what it’s like,” noted Connolly about the theatre students he’s looking forward to seeing.

“Through this learning there’ll be gaining skills like reading sheet music, vocal production and how to build a character. On top of that, we have these really great kind of special guests that are coming in. We have a really wonderful casting director who’s going to join us: she cast Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that’s coming into Toronto. So, we’ll meet her and there’s going to be a stage combat workshop with someone who’s coming in to do that. It’s going to be jam-packed and super fun. Our last day is spent at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, so they have the experience of being in a real theatre and doing a showcase for their parents on a real stage.”

More information about Drayton Entertainment’s upcoming March Break Broadway Boot Camp can be found on their website.

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