A Moment in the Woods: Aspiring Performers Tackle La Cage, Sweeney Todd and More at French Woods Theatre Camp

By Michael Gioia
01 Aug 2013

A scene from Sweeney Todd

When Dei Cicchi is not performing Sweeney Todd, rehearsing for Kiss Me, Kate or spending free time at the gym (the activity she chooses from dozens that include arts and crafts, cirque classes, rock climbing and more), she is practicing with her peers in French Woods' Cab Troupe, an extracurricular activity at camp (in which students have to audition for) that performs a medley of Broadway tunes for groups off campus. This year's theme is "Brits on Broadway — Musicals from the West End," and the students are exploring tunes from West End musicals such as Mamma Mia!, Matilda, Children of Eden and more.

"Cab Troupe is a group of musical theatre kids who want to work together as an ensemble," said Zachary Eisenberg, 18, from Miami, FL. "It's about being role models in the community. There are no stars. It's about connecting with each other, connecting with the audience and showing what you love to do."

With numerous performances and rehearsals, campers — much like seasoned professionals — are faced with maintaining proper vocal health and sustaining their stamina.

"In my rehearsal, there's a girl in How to Succeed… [who] plays Smitty and [is currently the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd], and she kind of lost her voice in the show, but she's still performing very well," explained Jennifer Fritz, 16, from Voorhees, NJ. "At rehearsal [for How to Succeed…], she hasn't been singing at all. You have to make a sacrifice. Even though she has the lead in my show, she's sparing her voice and making sure she can still put on a great performance [of Sweeney] and still learn all of her lines [for How to Succeed…]."

Morean added, "Last session, my voice was gone for about a week because I overused it. We were doing Chess: In Concert, and vocally, that's really hard! So I decided to really control it [by] not talking. It's just part of the career. And, it's good because we're learning a lot about ourselves — what we can do, when to stop and when to take a break."

Aside from learning about themselves, students are also learning about theatrical staples that they would not have the chance to explore in a high-school setting. French Woods owner and director Ron Schaefer admits that he is not afraid to expose students to challenging and edgy material, evident this season with the Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein award-winning musical La Cage aux Folles and other seasons with groundbreaking musicals such as Rent, Next to Normal, Parade, Blood Brothers, The Crucible, A New Brain and Avenue Q.