“Crazy for You” confirmed things for Joel Shapiro. The theater had become his passion.
In junior high, he watched a performance of the George and Ira Gershwin musical by the Niskayuna High Drama Club and became convinced that singing, dancing and acting — things he had dabbled in from time to time — would become a very high priority in his life.
It seems like a wise decision. Along with performing in a number of school productions, Shapiro, now heading into his senior year at Niskayuna, is following up a performance in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” at the New York State Theatre Institute with another gig at the Park Playhouse doing “High School Musical.”
‘High School Musical’
WHERE: Park Playhouse, Washington Park Amphitheater, Albany
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, through Aug. 23
HOW MUCH: Admission is free. Reserved tickets are $12
MORE INFO: 434-0776 or visit www.parkplayhouse.com
Still, as crazy as Shapiro is about performing, his feet are firmly planted on the ground. If he doesn’t become a big Broadway star, he’ll be very happy in the teaching profession, as long as there is music involved.
Q: Why did you get into performing?
A: My parents sent me to a summer academy for the arts and they did a production of “The Music Man,” and everybody had to try out. I think I was around 8, in the third grade, and I got the role of Winthrop. That kind of sparked my interest, and then in elementary school I was Charlie Brown in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Now I became a lot more interested. I wanted to get a bit more into it, so my mom signed me up for tap lessons.
Q: And then you saw “Crazy for You” performed at Niskayuna High?
A: Yes. Not too long after I had started going to the NYSTI, I saw “Crazy For You,” and the lead, Zack Burger, was just so fantastic. He was up there tap dancing the whole time and I thought he was so cool. I wanted to be like him. So my mom called his mom and asked her how he got to be so good, so I could follow in his path. I kept on going to NYSTI and began going to Orlando School of Tap. By then I was really into it.
Q: What other interests do you have?
A: Well, I was always a pretty good academic student, but over the past few years theater has taken over. My interests in other subjects has faded away. But I do love classical music, and the whole choral music thing is really big at Niskayuna. I also play the alto sax in a jazz band with my friends. We call ourselves No. 1 Dad. We’re like a rock band with horns, kind of like Chicago.
Q: How was your experience in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” at NYSTI?
A: I played Schroeder and it was a lot of fun. Since I had played Charlie Brown in fifth grade I thought about playing him again, but I was open to any of the characters, and I was very pleased to get the part of Schroeder. I guess when I was in fifth grade I looked more the part of Charlie Brown, but not anymore. It was great performing in that show with Michael Whitney [as Snoopy]. We became best buds doing “Pippin,” in which he was the lead at Niskayuna.
Q: How is your Park Playhouse experience going with “High School Musical.”
A: It was great to help put smiles on the faces of little kids when we were doing “Charlie Brown,” and I think they’re also going to really enjoy “High School Musical.” I play Ryan, which is sort of a supporting role like Schroeder.
I don’t have that much stage time, but when I do it’s a lot of fun and I’m in the spotlight for a few minutes. It’s a good dancing role and it’s been a great experience so far.
Q: Do you see yourself going outside the musical theater realm?
A: The musical aspect is very essential to me. I’m definitely more inclined to do things with music. And if I don’t have a career in musical theater, I would like to be a music teacher. I don’t think I’m going to major in musical theater because I might want to do something more practical that I can turn into a job. I can still train for the musical theater, but I would also be very happy being a music teacher.
Q: Do you have a favorite role?
A: I was in the ensemble at SLOC [Schenectady Light Opera Company] in “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and I thought it was just a fantastic show. There are two really great guy parts and when I’m older I would love to play one of them. It’s a great acting part and a great singing part.
Q: Why do you love musical theater so much?
A: Well, I certainly wouldn’t consider myself introverted, not in the least. I love getting up on stage and being something that people might not accept so well in real life. You bring life to a character and people connect with you. And I love bringing a smile to all the young faces in the audience. I think musical theater helps people get through the tough times.
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Categories: Life and Arts