For years, experienced actor Greggory Brandt has coached young people and this weekend, some of those youths will showcase what they've learned in a production of Broadway hits.
Called "Broadway Then & Now,'' the show that is scheduled to run Friday through Sunday features songs from the past 60 years on Broadway, Brandt said. The program contains such favorites as hits from "Annie Get Your Gun,'' "Oliver!,'' "Newsies,'' "Matilda'' and "Les Miserables.''
"There's really a range of songs from many decades starting in 1946,'' Brandt said.
The youths involved in the production are part of Brandt's artistic training program that he started four years ago called Broadway Bound Kids. There are similar programs in New York City with the same name that prepare young people to someday perform on Broadway. Brandt said when he named his group he didn't know about the NYC groups and some of the youths in his group are just in it for fun.
But others are definitely serious about the theater and may follow in his theatrical footsteps. Brandt appeared in two Broadway shows and toured nationally with several theater companies. A noted baritone soloist who has appeared with several renowned musical groups including the New York Chamber Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony, he teaches musical theater and voice at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J.
There are two dozen youths in the current production ages 7 to 18 from across the region, with most coming from the Blair County area but some from as far as Johnstown to take part in the program, Brandt said.
If you go
What: "Broadway Then & Now,'' presented by Broadway Bound Kids
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Church in the Middle of the Block Theatre, 217 Fifth Ave., Altoona
Cost: $10 for adults, $7 for children ages 12 and under. The theater seats about 125. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Thompson Pharmacy, Chestnut Avenue and Hollidaysburg locations, or at the door one hour prior to the show.
They rehearse twice a month starting in August and continue throughout the year until the annual show, he said. The students learn everything from choreography to singing, dancing and everything in between.
During the year, they also take their show on the road, making appearances at fall festivals, area amusement parks and other venues.
"It's also a nurturing experience, helping them build up self-confidence,'' Brandt said.
Brendan Trybus is in his first year with the group and said he's had a wonderful time with the program.
"I get to perform with others who have the same interest as me, which makes rehearsals a lot of fun,'' said Trybus, who graduated from Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School last month. He appeared in the school's play, "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.'' "We develop our performing skills, while having a great time,'' he said.
Trybus, who plans to attend Bucknell University and double-major in theater and business, said he's looking forward to performing for his family and friends. The production will be at the Church in the Middle of the Block Theatre at 217 Fifth Ave. in Altoona. Brandt said he likes the small theater that seats a little more than 120 people.
"I like it because it's very intimate,'' he said. "The kids know they have to be on their toes. They're right out in front of the audience.''
Proceeds from the shows help build the theatrical organization and also help pay for annual trips for the youths to see Broadway shows, Brandt said. Once a year, he takes the group on a one-day trip to New York to see a show and meet some of the actors he knows from shows he appeared in, he said.