"You have all your friends with you and it’s a lot of fun singing,” Michelle Tarain, 15, of Warwick and a freshman at St. Mary’s Bay View Academy, said of the preparation she and nearly 100 students have been doing for the 29th annual cabaret production of “Manhattan at the Bay.” “It’s a great opportunity for us to learn more about music, too. It’s a great experience.”
Fellow Warwick resident and sophomore Hannah Shea, 16, said she’s enjoying it, as well. She’s pleased they will be performing a variety of songs from multiple genres.
“Some of them are familiar to us and some of them we don’t know, so we get to learn new songs, too,” Shea said.
The students all auditioned in January and earned roles in the production, which features nine performances over the course of four days. Students and teachers of the all-girls Catholic school have transformed the on-campus Wellness Center to resemble the streets of Manhattan. With their theme, “Reach for the Stars,” they will show audiences a day in the life of a student.
“Through song and dance, we will take you on a journey,” said Artistic Director Christine D. Kavanagh, who also co-directs chamber chorus with Diane Gualtieri, the show’s musical director. “It’s an hour-and-20-minute extravaganza.”
Because students from grades 5 through 12 participate, audiences see youth of different ages and abilities perform. They will recreate the first day of school to the last day of classes.
“The idea is that one good teacher is worth more than 1,000 books,” Kavanagh said. “To quote the end of the show, ‘I am a teacher first, last and always,’ so we ultimately hope that we challenge students and give them something to hold onto in their lives. Not necessarily everyone goes to the Broadway stage, but it helps train them to be able to get up in front of a group of people.”
Lia Del Sesto, a 1992 Bay View graduate who is also Bay View’s director of alumni relations and external communications, agrees and fondly remembers taking part in the production.
As a professional vocalist that sings at weddings and other events, as well as participates in community theatre at Pawtucket Community Players in Pawtucket, she said she still feels the benefits of being part of the show.
“Even if you don’t go on to theatre, you know what poise means and how to be confident,” she said. “It also teaches amazing time management skills.”
Lauren Bennett, a 2008 Bay View graduate who recently graduated from Mary Washington College, can relate. She said that although she and Del Sesto attended the school years apart, they reaped the same benefits from the experience.
Further, Bennett said it unifies the school.
“The camaraderie the kids have with this type of intense production helps them make life-lasting friendships and they also have a connection with the people who have run the show for the past 29 years,” she said. “It’s a sisterhood.”
Additionally, Kavanagh said it’s nice to integrate younger and older students, as the younger children look up to the older girls as role models.
“It gives them the opportunity to see how they start out in wonderment at the age of 10 or 11 and they imagine what they are going to be like at the age of 17,” she said. “They work at it and grow in every way.”
Kavanagh has been helping coordinate and direct the event since it’s inception alongside fellow teacher and choreographer Cindy LoSasso. Through the years, other teachers have joined the mix, including costume designer Arlene Vacchelli, sound manager and percussionist Karen Mellor and technical director John Boomer.
While they said students mostly operate the event, meaning they function the lights and create the set, the children recognize their teachers’ hard work.
“It takes a lot of patience to come up with a new idea every year,” Shea said.
The show kicks off April 26 and runs through the 29th. Thursday’s April 26 performance begins at 7 p.m., while Friday’s April 27 show will start at 7:30 p.m.
There are three showings on Saturday, April 28, including 4:30, 7 and 9:15 p.m. The final show is Sunday, April 29 at 3 p.m.
For tickets, which are $25 apiece, call 1-800-595-4849 or visit bayviewacademy.org/bay-view-today. All proceeds will benefit the school. Snacks and refreshments will be available. St. Mary’s Bay View Academy is located at 3070 Pawtucket Avenue in Riverside.