GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – This weekend, “Chicago” comes to Glens Falls. The talents behind this production come not from Broadway, but from schools around the North Country. Broadway Upstate is putting its next show on the Charles R. Wood Theater stage – and leaving the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror.
For Executive Director Rachel Sebode, the pandemic hurt like it did for any other arts organization. Shows had to be postponed – a production of “Frozen Jr.” put on hold for two entire years. Despite the hardship, that time showed her the thing perhaps most important about youth-centric theatre programs.
“This program allows kids to meet other kids who have the same interest in the arts in different districts.” Sebode said on Tuesday. “They form lifelong friendships.”
“Chicago” takes the stage as Broadway Upstate’s summer show, running from Aug. 17-19 at the Wood Theater. The 24-student cast comprises mostly high school students, a choice made to stay appropriate to the content at hand. Incoming Glens Falls senior Sophie Plante takes on the role of Roxie Hart, opposite Gabriella Sebode as Velma Kelly.
Gabriella’s last name isn’t a coincidence. She’s Rachel Sebode’s daughter, and the lone outgoing high school senior in the cast. “Chicago” may be the end of the younger Sebode’s time with Broadway Upstate for the time being, but theater is in her blood.
“She’s been in musical theater since she could walk. I let her see ‘Rent’ when she was 8 years old,” Sebode said. “She’s been doing Broadway Upstate since the beginning in 2012, and now she’s heading off to pursue a career in musical theater. I’m excited to see where that career is going to take her.”
Twenty-four kids make for an enthusiastic crowd of burgeoning thespians, but enrollment since the coronavirus pandemic has still been on a downward turn. When “Frozen Jr.” finally hit the stage in 2022, some kids had to be assigned different roles – but everyone was just happy to be part of it before graduation. Some families had to make the difficult choice to keep their children out of pursuits like theater due to social distancing concerns, even once indoor gatherings were back on the table again.
The pandemic also hurt financially. Broadway Upstate wasn’t eligible for any financial COVID relief to make up for two years of no shows, and Sebode still feels like she’s catching up. In the return to form, it’s been support from parents that has made the extra difference.
“The whole family can be involved, which is nice for families – especially in the summer. I think they see their kids enjoying it so much and being so fulfilled, they go out of their way to support it,” she said.
Parents have run potlucks to keep everyone fueled during tech and dress rehearsals, and they always have enough food for everyone. They’ve also run basket raffles supporting the company, which this year allowed Sebode to purchase four new, long-needed microphones, to equip each actor with the tools they need to give the performance of their lives.
And this weekend, that’s just what they’ll do. Tickets for “Chicago” are on sale now through the Wood Theater.