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Youth theatre camps are a highlight during the summer months in most major cities and that includes the Bay Area. There are over twenty energetic Stage companies in the Bay that offer tuition based productions at most of the main regional companies - including Contra Costa Community Theatre, HillBarn in San Mateo, Town Hall Theatre, The Berkeley Playhouse, Children's Musical Theatre in San Jose and so many more. (I have a list of youth theatre programs at the bottom of this review).

The last weekend of July 2018 means these talented drama/musical camps present their summer musicals. I rarely cover or review teen tuition based productions, mainly every student should be able to perform on stage with a wide variety of talent. I find it difficult to criticize, and I am a bit disappointed when I see casting that is not diverse. But I am proud to report, diversity in these teen programs is improving. All these programs offer scholarships, but they seem to miss the mark in outreaching to talented students that will never have the same opportunity to perform on stage. Yet the opportunity to engage using the internet, some of these terrific talented youth have scored well on youtube and other new media outlets to get exposure.

The two Summer student programs I was pleased to see this summer include STARSTRUCK based in Fremont Calif, and YMTC from Berkeley Calif. Both programs staged excellent mainstream musicals, featuring some inspiring local talent. All these theatre youth workshops boast about their alumni scoring gigs in professional theatre. Both companies have actors who have gone on to work professionally, and their marketing staff are sure to pitch those fun facts as they sell their programs to parents. YMTC can boast one of their former actors Ari’el Stachel who won a Tony this past season for THE BAND’S VISIT in New York. STARSTRUCK has Julianne Godfrey who is currently in SpongeBob Squarepants, The Musical on Broadway.

YMTC closes their 13th season with the explosive musical PARADE, that doesn’t boast “Pretty in Pink” topics , but a very serious musical based on adult themes with a very dark topic and ending.

STARSTRUCK also tackles a darker musical not recommended for kids, HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. YMTC first staged the Bay Area Premiere of PARADE back in 2011, and this summer brings a talented cast to tell the true story of Leo Frank’s trial and eventual lynching in early 20th-century Atlanta.

The Tony Award-winning musical PARADE explores Jewish factory manager Leo Frank who is unjustly accused of murdering a teenaged factory girl the day of the Memorial Day parade. Alfred Uhry’s award-winning book and Jason Robert Brown’s rousing, haunting score give this dramaic story little to smile about. Director Jennifer Boesing says “Parade is a story about one of the most glaring miscarriages of justice in recent American history - It’s also a cautionary tale, a warning against scapegoating, racism, xenophobia, and sensationalism in the media—all issues that we can see playing out in American politics today - Theater has the power to change hearts and minds, and the young artists at the heart of YMTC take their role as storytellers very seriously.”

PARADE opens with the 32 member ensemble singing the anthem “The Old Red Hills of Home”. The highlight of this production is David Moschler’s extraordinary orchestra who commands this amazing score by Jason Robert Brown. It was a pleasure to listen to this 30 member pit truly lift the roof of the El Cerrito Performing Arts Center. Zev Marx-Kahn unfortunately, struggles with his role as Leo Frank, he sings “How Can I Call this Home”, “It’s Hard to Speak My Heart” and closes with “Abduction Sh’ma”. Kahn shows wonderful promise as an actor and his voice improves as he slowly embodies the role of man wrongly accused.

The pitch perfect Ayyzza Marquez plays his wife Lucille, Marquez proves her excellent acting skills and her grand voice in her two solo’s “You Don’t Know This Man” and “Do It Alone”. Both Marquz and Kahn show their hurt and distress in this tragic true story and their voices complement each other in their closing duet “All The Wasted Time”.

The vibrant Kees Hoekendijk plays Frankie the young boy friend of the murdered girl. Ava Bogart has a brief appearance as Mary and both Hoekendijk and Bogart are charming in their song “The Picture Show”. But Hoekendijk proves his superb voice in his two solo’s “It Don’t Make Sense” and “Frankie’s Testimony”.

Another highlight in the PARADE cast is the polished Christiano Delgado who plays Jim Conley the night man who worked at the pencil factory that Leo managed. Delgado a YMTC vet brings his power house voice and stellar performance to both his solo’s “That's What He Said’ and the powerful “A Rumblin’ and a Rollin” that also features house servants AJ Carter, and Carlita Landrum. Director Jennifer Boeing smoothly interweaves the dark crime story with intriguing exploration of a man's life in crisis. She turns this long-forgotten mystery into a reminder of our misguided justice system.

Musical director Moschler masterfully delivers composer Jason Robert Brown's nostalgic score. Kyle Chuang is the assistant Music Director, and the authentic costumes by Debra Britt with an open set by Bill Brewer. PARADE offers audiences an opportunity to make their own conclusions about the crime. Audience members in effect become the jury, presented with the facts of the case and given a chance to determine Leo’s innocence or guilt before learning of his ultimate fate.

PARADE remains timely and powerful. The company is a mix of talent and diversity. Marketing staff Laura Soble says the program has grown, and become seasoned and diversified; “and we continue to do outreach and connect with talented youth and raise funds to assist as many as we can - We have a very robust tuition assistance program that is a priority” says Sobie. A YMTC Board Member Bob Kliger mentioned to me, they never turn away an applicant who can’t pay the tuition. PARADE Closed July 29th to positive reviews, but HUNCHBACK is still ringing his Bells at the Ohlone College Performance Center.

STARSTRUCK brings a company of local east bay students to their Fremont stage that includes a 35 member full choir, 27 Cast Members and a keen 20 member Orchestra. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, now on stage at Ohlone College through August 12th. The musical is adapted from the 1996 Disney animated film which itself, was based on the classic Victor Hugo novel "Notre Dame de Paris," includes a impressive set by Stephen Wathen that includes three huge bells designed by props master Cat McConnell. The booming tremendous 20 member orchestra is under the direction of Nancy Godfrey.

This young cast delivers terrific vocals and epic themes. Director Lori Stokes has cast some bright teens (who, of course, pay a tuition to be on stage). This company of young players ring out Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken’s words and music. Director Stokes says for the first time in 23 years adults are cast in a STARSTRUCK production, “We have incorporated adult community members who form the Norte Dame choir - its themes of injustice are as central to this story as they are to today's headlines.” says Stokes.

The poignant Nick Saud is the tortured Quasimodo, with a commanding performance, as we meet him, he transforms himself into the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The song "Bells of Notre Dame" fills the Gary Soren Smith Center on the Fremont Campus. Saud is impressive singing “Out There”, “Top Of The World’ and “Flight Into Egypt”.

The villain of the story is the detailed Ethan Le, who plays a difficult role as Claude Frollo who is Quasimodo’s caretaker. Le is vibrant in his solo songs “Sanctuary” and the flaming red “Hellfire” he sings with the full choir. Le is a rising star and brings this musical it's tragic and sometimes, dark themes.

The triple threat Drew Hope is the dynamic Chopin Trouillefou. He steals the show whenever he takes center stage. His solo opens the story with “The Bells of Notre Dame”, and hit number “Topsy Turvy” choreographed by Lillian Kautz. Hope brings a true professional look to this cast and his future is bright on Bay Area Stages. His voice sparkles and his dance romp in “The Court of Miracles” is show stopping.

Esmeralda is played by the splendid Simi Kattaura who dances impeccably and looks festive in the part of Quasimodo’s one true friend. Her “Rhythm of the Tambourine” is a highlight but she had some difficult times singing her solo’s including “God Helps The Outcasts” and rousing “Tavern Song”. Kattaura timing with Saud is wonderful and their song “Place of Miracles” is touching.

This HUNCHBACK cast is busy, no roles are double cast as in the original, and the Gargoyles are a bit much. I have seen maybe three or four at the most in past productions but Stokes in a effort to get all her kids on stage cast about 16 statues or gargoyles that became distracting, they seemed more like Gypsies. The song “Made of Stone” missed the mark.

The handsome Matthew Locke as Lt De Martin also had trouble with his solo “Someday” with Esmeralda. Locke had a romp of sword fight that ends the first act choreographed by Skylar Adams. The “Finale Ultimo” featuring Saud and the company is a powerful teary ending. This HUNCHBACK closes August 12th at the Ohlone Performance center and is not to be confused with BAM’s production that closes this weekend Aug 5th.

For both company’s audition process is rigorous and requires the students to agree to a strict contact. I would rather see many of the students audition for local regional stages and not pay to be in musical, but reverse that and be paid (in the guise of an acceptable stipend) while still retaining the red carpet to begin their professional careers. MAGIC TREE HOUSE:continues at TownHall players in Lafayette, 13 The Musical continues at 42 Street Moon in SF, and GREASE at The Berkeley Playhouse also closes August 5th. Teen Youth Theatre is alive on Bay Area Stages!

YMTC Presents


Book by Alfred Uhry, Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown

Directed by Jennifer Boesing

Musical Direction by David Möschler

Closed Summer July 2018

El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater

540 Ashbury Avenue, El Cerrito

YMTC 2018 - 19 season schedule - go to -

photo's Dave Weiland and Ann Ziegler


The Hunchback

of Notre Dame

Book by James Lapine & Peter Parnell

Music by Alan Menken

Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo

Directed by Lori Stokes

Choreographer Lillian Kautz, Music Director Nancy Godfrey

Production Manager Anthony Wickizer

Must close August 12th

Smith Center at Ohlone College

STARSTRUCK Photo’s by Mark & Tracy Photography.

David Moschler talks about the score of PARADE



"The Young Conservatory is the absolute best place for any hopeful young artist. It instilled in me a sense of excitement and confidence, as well as the tools that I would go on to use in developing my professional career. I will forever be indebted to A.C.T. for the leaps it has allowed me to take as an actor, artist, and citizen of the greater world."

—Darren Criss, YC alumnus (TV's Glee)


Summer Theatre Intensive: Session 2

Entering grades 9–12 · Explore all facets of theatre through a fun-filled, four-week experience for all levels. Students study with professional artists, creating an original play to be performed onstage at Berkeley Rep! Click here for more information.


StarStruck Theatre is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of youth and our community by providing theatre arts education, performance opportunities, and musical productions of uncompromising quality.

42ND STREET MOON SCHOOL tween/teen Moon Schoolers

Poison Apple Productions

PA produces over 20 productions a year at our Playhouse in Martinez California, and we perform at least 4 times a year at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. PA specializes in "kids theater" with an award winning program for preschool theater through teen actors up to 18. Their teen theater program is award winning, and young adults find artistic opportunity on the stage and off in our productions, and as interns.

Young REP Theatre Workshop



Town Hall Education is dedicated to providing students of all ages with high quality, engaging, and fun theatrical experiences. We strive to make sure each child develops access to their own voice through theatrical expression. In our classes and in our building we have built a strong and welcoming community. We hope you can come experience that feeling and be a part of our community.

San Jose Children’s Musical Theater

The company, now in its 50th year, offers a wide variety of theater training opportunities for students ages 4-20, and mounts 20 shows a season with three troupes, the Rising Stars (actors age 8-14), Mainstage (age 14-20) and Margui (CMT alumni)

Upcoming productions: “West Side Story,” July 27-Aug. 5, both shows at Montgomery Theater, San Jose.

Oakland School for the Arts

The highly acclaimed arts academy covers the gamut in arts — from writing to singing to dancing to, of course, theater and theater production.

More information:

Bay Area Children’s Theatre

The school and company founded in 2004 performs for thousands of very young theater fans each with touring productions, many of them world premieres. The company also offers year-round programs around the Bay Area, though many of the summer programs are already sold out (see website for waitlist information).

Current show: World premiere musical “Pete the Cat,” aimed at kids ages 3-8, through Sept. 16 in Berkeley, Sunnyvale and San Francisco.

More information:

Berkeley Playhouse

The former youth theater company has expanded its offerings to present adult and all-ages fair but still maintains a good variety of classes and productions for youths.

Current mainstage production: “Grease,” through Aug. 5, Julia Morgan Theatre, Berkeley.


Stars 2000 Performing Academy

This Walnut Creek theater school and teen theater troupe aims at teaching kids what goes into a big Broadway-style musical. “Legally Blonde The Musical,” July 20-Aug. 5, Diablo Valley College Performing Arts Center, Pleasant Hill.

More information:

A Theatre Near U

A film and theater school for teens teaching acting, writing and directing.

Current show: “Children of an Idle Brain,” June 29-30, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

More information:


Contra Costa Civic Theatre (CCCT), in collaboration with the award-winning Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT), is pleased to offer exciting theatre-based classes for kids
Peninsula Youth Theatre

The school hosts a wide range of classes, camps and workshops for varying ages.

Upcoming shows: The school and city of Mountain View host free “theater in the park” performances Fridays through the summer at Pioneer Park, Mountain View; other productions include “”Guys and Dolls Jr.,” July 12-15, and “Peter and the Starcatcher,” July 19-22, at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

More information:

South Bay Children’s Musical Theatre

The company offers performers ages 5-25 opportunities to perform live or in a film or recording studio. Saratoga Civic Theater.

More information: The company has affiliated programs in South bay and Gilroy/Morgan Hill.

Young Performers Theatre

The company and school based at San Francisco’s Fort Mason complex offers acting classes and theater experiences for youths, and stages a handful of youth-oriented productions during the year.

More information:

Musical Theatre Works

The school and company offers classes in performance for youths in kindergarten through fifth grade and stages a handful of youth-oriented productions during the year.

More information:

Many of the Bay Area’s professional and community theaters companies offer classes, programs and productions for youths, including Theatreworks Silicon Valley, and American Conservatory Theater, among many others.


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