March 2, 2019 is a day I will never forget. It was the closing night of my high school’s spring musical, “Little Shop of Horrors”. I performed with some of my best friends in front of our loved ones. When the curtain closed, I felt the most unusual mixture of emotions. After that was the after party, where the seniors gave their speeches and said their goodbyes. As amazing as that experience was, what I will remember the most was when I was alone.
When the after party ended and people started to head home, I asked one of my friends to bring me onto the stage one last time. I sat there and looked into the empty auditorium and felt like watching what I thought was a closing chapter. At the time, I knew I was not continuing my acting career in college and choosing either communications or journalism as my major.
I never would have dreamed of performing in another musical, and at the time of the end of high school, it broke my heart. I spent the beginning of my time of college at Seton Hall focusing on learning journalism skills. I only sang in the shower and the car. When the year 2020 came along, I began searching for musicals to audition for, realizing how much I missed performing. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it took away any and every opportunity.
As the pandemic dragged along, I saw a post that in hindsight changed my life. In the summer of 2021, saw a clip of my friend Joe Moschella singing a song from “Legally Blonde” in rehearsal for an upcoming production of the musical. Little did I know how much seeing this show would impact me.
When I saw this show in Morristown, NJ, I discovered that one of my friends, Kaitlyn Huamani, was starring as Elle Woods. I hadn’t seen her in years because she moved away from our hometown of East Hanover, NJ to Gladstone, NJ. Then, she moved to California for college. I was ecstatic to see her perform. On top of all that, I discovered that the directors of the show were Angelo DeFazio and Nicole Lippey, who have both taught me so much about performing, especially singing.
When this show ended, I told Angelo how I wished I knew about this production and went on to say how much I have missed performed me. He encouraged me to audition for the next summer show, and I set my heart on it. I followed A Work of Heart’s Instagram account and wondered what the choice would be for the summer of 2022.
As time passed on, I faced challenges. I began my junior year of college, which came with fun memories, but much more struggles. This year started with mental health battles and doing a lot of reflecting on who I am. By the time it was my birthday, I felt joyful for the first time in weeks. The joy only increased when I saw another life changing Instagram post.
As I was looking on Instagram, I saw a post that made me gasp out loud. A Work of Heart announced that the next summer musical was “Grease”, which is not only my all time favorite movie, but also my dream musical! Seeing this post was a motivator to get through the rest of my semester.
When my semester ended and it was time for me to prepare for my auditions, which was something I had not done since 2018. Taking voice lessons felt like riding a bike. After a couple days and lots of practice, I felt so much more confident in myself and my singing voice.
When I arrived at Saint Elizabeth University, I felt like I was reuniting with family. It felt so nice to be with people that I have performed with before. After waiting anxiously for the email from Angelo and Nicole on what role I got, I was genuinely surprised. I learned that I had a solo for the first time ever! The solo I got was for the song “Raining on Prom Night”, which is a song that I loved when I saw another production of the musical by Angelo at my high school back when I was just 13 years old.
The rehearsal process was the least stressful it ever felt. I loved the creative freedom that Angelo gave to the cast. I found ways to adapt to the choreography of the show, and I slowly am working on my perspective of looking too different from the rest of the cast. I hope that next year will be just as fascinating of an experience.
Throughout the process of rehearsals, I had several mental health challenges. There were times where I could have stopped or gave up, but I am so happy that I didn’t because I have met so many incredible people. I spent time people who loved me for who I am, even when I felt like I didn’t love myself.
I will hold on to the memories of these last few months of rehearsals because they were some of the best moments not just of this year, but even since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. I wish nothing but joy for my cast mates as we approach tech week and I have nothing but gratitude for reviving my favorite hobby.