Summer Musical Arts campers shine under spotlights
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Mon., Jul. 29, 2013
More than 40 campers with the Summer Musical Arts Camp crowded into the stairwells just outside the Little Theater on Broad Street. They waited for their cue, when five groups would rush onto the stage and launch into their opening number, “Lullaby of Broadway.” Accompanied by camp director Noel Brouillard on piano, they sang and danced, exhibiting some of the lessons learned in their three-week crash course.
In its eighth year, SMARTS is the brainchild of theater manager Allegra Plantier and her parents, Noel and Robert Brouillard. “It's a family tradition,” Plantier said. “This is how I grew up.” She was 3 years old when she made her first stage appearance. It's been a love affair ever since. Plantier has fashioned it into a career. She is the music teacher at Killingly Central School when she isn't managing the Little Theater. The camp just gives her another opportunity to teach something she loves to kids.
“I'm a teacher,” she said. “That's my main job. I love to watch kids do things they never thought they could do. And I get to play and push the kids and do something I love, too.”
Plantier, her parents and four camp counselors spent three weeks getting 44 campers into shape for a two-and-a-half-hour show featuring 35 Broadway songs. They taught the 12- to 18-year-old campers dance, vocal, instrumental, improvisational and auditioning skills.
They are skills that 21-year-old counselor Brittany Bissonnette has continued to study since performing in her first play in third grade. The Hofstra University student credits Plantier and the camp with pointing her in the direction of music education. “It's one of the main reasons I went into music,” she said. “Music isn't only mathematical and scientific, it also brings in emotions. It helps you express yourself.”
The campers expressed themselves in song, choreography, skits and improvisation. Campers took turns introducing songs, singing in groups, solos and duets, playing instruments and performing scenes.
“With improv, they have to be ready,” Robert Brouillard said. “They have to develop a story and bring it to a conclusion and make it cool.” When he asked for an audience member to give him a setting, someone suggested the time of the ancient Egyptians. Brouillard charged six campers with turning that suggestion into an impromptu story. The kids launched into a skit depicting workers arguing over whether to fashion the Sphinx into a dog or a cat. One camper suggested they make the sculpture small enough to sell in large quantities in gift stores. “See how convoluted their minds can be?” Brouillard said after the short performance.
Senior camp counselor Emily Zornado called the campers amazing. “There are no other kids who can do what we do,” she said. “And there are no other kids who want to. They have the urge to create.” In her sixth year as counselor, Zornado has seen a lot of changes among the campers. “It's fulfilling to see the changes and the growth from one year to the next, and from the start to finish of camp,” she said.
David Alvarado agrees. The first-year counselor said the camp provides an opportunity to work with others drawn to the challenges and thrills of performing. The KHS grad enjoyed watching the campers grow into their performances. “They had to learn so much in so little time,” he said.
Alvarado credited Plantier with giving all campers the chance to perform. “She's been very supportive,” he said. “She's always there for everyone. She lets everyone get into the spotlight.”