Get Ready for Broadway Comes to St. John February 16 at Westin

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Get ready to enjoy a night of top-notch entertainment, while supporting St. John School of the Arts, on Saturday, February 16, when Broadway Comes to St. John with “One World, One Heart.” Students have been working hard like the fourth graders at Gifft Hill School, above.

Fourth graders at GHS, above, practice dance steps with Donna Drake, far left, and Rhonda Miller, center.

Get ready to be wowed St. John!

Four professional Broadway actors have been working with fourth graders at Julius E. Sprauve School, Guy Benjamin School and Gifft Hill School on an original musical production which will be presented at the Westin Resort and Villas’ ballroom on Saturday, February 16.

The Broadway Comes to St. John event is a fundraiser for the St. John School of the Arts and promises to be a night of top-notch entertainment. The evening, however, is really about much more than teaching dance steps and song lyrics to local students.

The four accomplished actors — John Tartaglia, Laura Barnao, Rhonda Miller, Michael Shawn Lewis and Donna Drake — pay for their own travel expenses and donate all of their time in teaching and creating the production.

The group began planning this year’s show before they even returned to New York following last year’s performance, explained Lewis.

“We technically started talking about this year’s show on the plane ride back home after the show last year,” he said.

“We were so happy with last year’s show and the reaction it got and we all started talking about ‘what’s next,’” said Barnao.

“That’s where the idea for ‘One World, One Heart’ came from, but all we knew was we wanted it to be about celebrating what we all have in common,” said Tartaglia. “But, the real work started in mid-September which is when we usually gather for our first meeting about the show.”

“It’s a lot of pre-planning before we ever come down; figuring out what musical numbers the kids will sing, how many dances, projections, how we travel down the special effects, the schedule for building the costumes and props,” said Miller.

“We try to plan out as much as possible before the holidays hit, then usually after Christmas we really ramp into gear and build and write and sew and create for the next few weeks before we hop on a plane and get here,” said Drake.

Across the board, the actors find it more than worthwhile to spend so much of their energy working with St. John students.

“Without a doubt what makes it worthwhile is seeing the children learn not only about what goes into creating and putting on a show, but learning more about themselves,” said Drake. “Seeing confidence grow in kids who have very little self-esteem, watching a song or a dance instill some self-worth in someone.”

“The reality is, the five of us are so blessed to be as successful as we are doing what we do,” said Lewis. “We’re working in an industry that isn’t the easiest to be employed in and we are very thankful for that.”

 The Broadway Comes to St. John SJSA fundraiser is the perfect way for the actors to give back to the community of St. John, a place they have grown to love, explained Barnao.

“We’ve all been best friends for many years and fell in love with St John together on a vacation and always desired to spend more time down here,” she said. “When this opportunity came along it was just the perfect blend of passing on what we love to do to the younger generations and celebrating this incredible island and it’s people.”

“It really does feel like home to us,” said Tartaglia.

“Plus, though we’re working professionals, we all seem to share that love of ‘let’s put on a show,’” said Lewis.

“Yeah, it’s very Mickey and Judy in a barn with only an hour to pull the show together,” Tartaglia said.

Without fail, the actors are actually able to watch the students grow through the show preparation process.

“We’ve had several kids who had never sung a note before, never danced in public before, never held a puppet before,” said Miller. “They suddenly get this confidence to stand up there and just soak it all in. It’s a great experience to watch the parents’ faces when they see their child like that for the first time.”

“It’s amazing when you get a kid who doesn’t think he or she is good enough and then ends up loving the spotlight,” said Tartaglia.

“I think one of our favorite moments is the day of the show when all three of the schools come together for the first time and have to literally put on a show together,” Lewis said. “Not only do new friends get made, but suddenly the kids within each school form a bond that’s very trusting.”

The program also teaches self-expression, collaboration, teamwork and more, according to Lewis.
“We think the arts provides a healthy and safe outlet for so many behavioral and growth-based issues for kids,” he said. “It’s self-expression and that is something that is not covered in a typical ‘STEM’ curriculum in schools.”

“We hope that kids walk away with a better understanding and respect for collaboration and teamwork as well as honesty, discipline, respect and tolerance,” said Barnao.

“That’s also why we try to theme the show around positive themes so that hopefully they can walk away with that as well,” Miller said.

In addition to raising much-needed funds for SJSA and imparting critical lessons to students, the show is going to be a highly entertaining evening.

“We’ve decided to raise the stakes a bit this year,” said Tartaglia. “Since it’s an international theme, we’re featuring a lot more of a variety of music, more flashy costumes, a ton of new special effects and digital projections, professional lighting, new puppets and even some true surprises.”

“Everything the audience has come to enjoy over the past two years will be there, but just pumped up another few notches,” said Drake.

“Plus there will be dinner and dancing at The Westin,” said Lewis. “It’s exciting to see how it’s grown.”

“We’ve had packed houses and everyone here on the island just seems to love the show,” said Barnao.

“Honestly, that’s what drives us to make each year even better,” Miller said.

Don’t miss out! Angel tickets, for $200, include a seat the 6 p.m. premier of “One World, One Heart,” plus dinner and dancing on the beachfront at the Westin Resort and Villas. There will also be an 8 p.m. show which is open to the public and SJSA officials will accept any donations.

SJSA is also selling raffle tickets, for $100 each, for the chance to win a trip to London. The “St. John Goes to London” raffle includes round-trip airfare for two, tickets to a show in London’s West End, dinner and three night’s hotel accommodation. The winner may then choose to take advantage of an additional three nights in Paris or Scotland, but must make travel arrangements on their own.

There will only be 150 raffle tickets sold. Tickets are available now at SJSA or online at www.stjohnschoolofthearts.org. For more information about Broadway Comes to St. John, call SJSA at 779-4322.