Over the years, I have seen many local productions of musical theater: school plays, summer theater camps for kids, and community theaters. It is always a joy to see a young performer step outside the local area to pursue his or her dream. One such performer, Connor Frawley, a freshman at Fairfield Warde High School, is doing just that, having earned the leading role of "Madoc Dean" in the musical Count To Ten, an official selection of the 2009 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). The show is one of 35 musicals selected by the Festival, which has led the way for such Broadway shows as Next To Normal and Title of Show.
According to the press release, “[Michael] Blevins’ musical follows a tap-dancing writer whose Broadway ambitions are thwarted because his new musical lacks a real love story. Forced to develop the show at a performing arts camp full of spoiled, rich, and in some cases neglected stars of tomorrow, he finds he can no longer tap-dance around his issues and succumbs to the true call of his heart. Count To Tenis a cross-generational, dance-filled, upbeat musical everyone can 'tap' into.”
Director/Choreographer and author Michael Blevins, most widely known for his portrayal of "Mark" in the film A Chorus Line, began rehearsals with Connor in mid-September. Blevins notes, “Connor’s role is a demanding one requiring him to act, sing, tap dance and even do gymnastics. He’s a talented and endearing performer.”
Locally, Connor has appeared in musical productions at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre and Fairfield Teen Theatre, and danced competitively at the D’Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Center. “I’ve been tap dancing since I was four years old,” Connor says. “There is a lot of dancing in Count To Ten. It is fun and challenging.”
Prior to opening night, I spoke to Connor about the audition process, how he is balancing being in the show with the demands of being a high school freshman, and the support he has received from friends and family in pursuing this dream of performing in New York theater.
Connor was selected through a series of auditions held in New York by The Group Theatre Too. He said that after sending in his headshot and resume, he was called in to the audition where he first had to dance, then sing, and then act. Rehearsals took place in New York, three days per week. “I’d be in school until 2:30, then my dad would pick me up and we’d go immediately to the train. I had my New York bag with me – tap shoes, script and homework. I did my homework on the train – trains are good for sleeping and homework.”
I asked Connor about how he was preparing for opening night. He said he was extremely nervous, but constant rehearsals allowed him the time to work the nervousness out of his system. Although he has not had much time to hang out with his friends, Connor says they have been very supportive, especially those he called his “Theater Friends” – the ones who have appeared in local productions with him. “They all think its cool.”
About the cast and crew, Connor said, “This has been a totally awesome experience for me. The cast and crew have been helping me along the way and I think everyone there is awesome and cool.”
Count To Ten plays at the Theater at St. Clements in midtown Manhattan from October 15th to the 17th. Then it moves to the Hudson Guild Theater, also in New York City, for an extended run from October 28th through November 1st. You can get the full schedule and tickets by visiting the show's website, or call 212-567-1535.
The New York Musical Theatre Festival is in its sixth year. It has premiered over 175 new musicals since 2004 and is the biggest musical theater event in the United States.