Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

theater peter pan capt hook web 2 mar16Actors Justin Sanzari as Captain Hook, right, and Grace Altenburger as Smee in a 2014 production of ‘Peter Pan’ by the Blessed Sacrament Children’s Theatre of Waterbury. (Photo submitted)

WATERBURY – Blessed Sacrament Children’s Theatre, now entering its 16th year, will hold auditions for the musical “Beauty and the Beast,” beginning with informational meetings at noon March 12 and 19 in the school cafeteria.

The children’s theater has earned a reputation for producing some of the best Broadway-like shows since it launched in 2001. It has received glowing reviews for past sold-out shows, including “Oliver,” “Hello Dolly,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie,” “Peter Pan,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Willy Wonka,” “High School Musical” and “Seussical The Musical.”

“We are definitely not a kiddie play,” said Debbie Forchielli, marketing director, photographer and costume designer. “We are a Broadway-style production with about 100 children from pre-K through eighth grade as our casts.

“We have full, beautiful sets, magnificent costumes, a full orchestra, choreography, full-scale lighting, a sound system and six performances” given on the last weekend of June. … In short, “it is spectacular,” she boasts.

And “even though it is held at Blessed Sacrament School, it is open to children from all over Connecticut,” she explained. Productions are usually double-cast to accommodate as many children as possible in the six performances.

“We have a lot of talented kids,” said Mrs. Forchielli. “All the kids have a ball. It’s amazing what they can do.”

“We have children who come from as far away as South Windsor and Bristol,” she said. “Many of our alumni have gone on to be theater majors, a finalist [Katie Stevens] for ‘American Idol,’ regulars in community theaters [Thomaston, Waterbury, Hartford and Naugatuck], tour with national companies and are even current TV and movie ingénues.”

The shows are produced by John Odonnell and directed by Bob Tansley, who also directs productions at Post University and whose daughter, Brooke, went on to perform the role of Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway.

“He doesn’t treat the actors as kids, he treats them as adults,” Mrs. Forchielli said of Mr. Tansley.

“It’s a love for him,” she said, “and he’s phenomenal.”

Another component has been the backing of the parish’s pastor, Father Jeremiah Murasso. “He’s one of our biggest supporters,” she said.

“It’s an incredible work of art,” said Father Murasso, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish. “These people invest so much time. Bob Tansley is the best. He has such patience and brings out so much talent in the kids that even they and their parents don’t realize they have.

“It’s not your typical school play, it’s a professional performance,” he continued. “It’s wonderful. It parallels anything on Broadway.”

The productions are self-sustaining, thanks to the enthusiasm and fund-raising efforts of parents, who sell advertising for the program book in addition to running numerous other projects that support the shows.

Both the school and the students have grown, thanks to the theater company.

“It’s a great introduction for children to live theater,” said Mrs. Forchielli, and it encourages kids who aren’t involved in sports to try another activity.

“It also showcases the school,” providing great community outreach, she added, noting that some children were so impressed after being in a play that they enrolled in the school.

Six performances of “Beauty and the Beast” are set for June 23-26 in the school gym. Tickets cost $12.

Open auditions for children in grades three to eight will be held April 3 at Blessed Sacrament School. For information, email