Theater Program: A Class Act NY

My wife had found out through another mom about a musical theater program for our 6-year-old daughter organized by a New York-based company called A Class Act NY. Our daughter loves to sing and dance and it seemed like a natural fit, although I didn’t know what to think when I went to the website and saw that the school promotes itself as “Manhattan’s award-winning acting studio for kids and teens.” Apparently casting directors would be involved, not to mention showcases. And I immediately thought of the lyrics to Noel Coward’s “Mrs. Worthington:”

Don’t put your daughter on the stage,
Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
The profession is overcrowded
And the struggle’s pretty tough
And admitting the fact
She’s burning to act
That isn’t quite enough

It is that, but also a lot more—or less, depending on what you’re looking to get out of the experience for kids starting at 5-6 years old. For us, it’s be all been a marvelous exposure to theater for our little one in a nurturing and supportive environment.

And that’s what Jessica Rofé, the founder, artistic director, and owner of A Class Act NY intended. Rofé’s desire from the outset was to expose kids to musical theater working with some of the remarkable talent available on our doorsteps. “I wanted kids to learn teamwork, discipline, responsibility, how to speak in public, do their homework,” she says. “And above all, to appreciate and support theater for the rest of their lives.”

It was only when parents, often under pressure from their own kids, pressed Rofé to use her connections in the industry to introduce them to casting directors and producers, that she started “agent showcases” as part
of A Class Act’s programs.

“The first thing for us is that the child has fun doing a workshop with someone, for example, from the cast of ‘Hamilton,’” she says. But for courses starting at age 4 (and going up to courses for young adults in their 20s), A Class Act will host an agent showcase twice a year. Rofé will vet the children first to see if they “make the cut” showing professional potential. Interestingly, she’ll also vet the parents:
Anxious, pushy parents most often get politely filtered out.

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And, yes, A Class Act has provided numerous stepping stones into the professional world of theater, television, movies, and advertising for its alums.

The school uses a professional space on 8th Avenue, notably the famous Pearl Building, which for many years has provided Broadway with its rehearsal spaces (“Matilda” actively uses the building, for example), and the equally renowned Ripley-Grier Building.

There are a variety of offerings for children from ages 5-18, at all different levels of ability, mostly on weekends during the school year, and an extensive summer camp. Broadway musical is covered, as is straight and on-camera acting. While thousands of children experience A Class Act classes, it’s always in small batches and taught by talented professional performers. There is private coaching in voice, acting, and dance on an hourly basis for those that want to accelerate their talents.

Our daughter’s Magical Musical Theater Class ran for six consecutive Sunday mornings in the fall—from 11am-12:30pm each session. Her red A Class Act T shirt was her uniform and, yes, she had practice for her lines (actually it was one line and, in total, seven words, but she practiced, practiced, practiced!), she had to learn her songs. And finally, on the sixth session, it was show time! The nine cast members sang and were choreographed to five fine show tunes (my favorite was “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” from “Annie”). Throughout the sessions, they were kept in line and on tune by a terrific teacher, Rebecca O’Sullivan, who had infectious energy and enthusiasm for her weekend job. Her daytime and nighttime job is to sign and dance professionally and she treated us to a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan operetta from her current gig.

Our daughter smiled throughout, enjoyed the sessions and particularly relished the final performance. I’m not sure she’s ready for primetime (I am a proud but realistic parent) but I do know that she extracted the joy and love of theater that A Class Act has as its mission.

To learn more, visit aclassactny.com!

Richard Burns writes regularly about traveling and things to do with children for New York Family.

 

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