'Inside Broadway' goes back to school post COVID-19 pandemic

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- While Broadway theaters remained closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Inside Broadway continued to bring the magic of live theater to New York City public schools.

Now that Broadway is back open, the non-profit group is back to staging in-person events.

With students back in the classroom, one recent production took place at Hunter College Elementary School on the Upper East Side.

"My Town" is about legendary song and dance man George M. Cohan, whose statue stands in the middle to Times Square.

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When the statue came to life in the school's auditorium, there was a sense of wonder that only can come from a live performance.

Third grader Charlotte Brenner said her favorite part was when "the statue was dancing and singing."

The actors are professionals but are young enough to really connect with the kids.

"There can't be a moment where things sag in terms of the energy the pacing," actor Alex Schecter told me. "Because they'll lose interest."

He plays Cohan, a guy trying to make sense of modern New York and explain the city to a young tourist played by Paola Robles-Vazquez.

"I'm smiling the entire time," she said. "And I think I look into the audience, the house lights are on, so I'm absolutely just enjoying myself looking at them react to me and reacting back and forth."

They were brought to Hunter College Elementary by Inside Broadway to perform for 45 minutes and take questions afterwards.

The presentation is part of just one program staged by this organization, which is best known for giving Broadway theater tickets to students.

In the 40 years since the giveaway started during the original run of "Cats," nearly 3 million students have seen a show for free.

"They bring an energy," Inside Broadway founder Michael Presser said. "They bring enthusiasm. They bring a perspective. They bring excitement. They bring discovery."

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When Broadway had to shut down during the pandemic, Presser and his team kept going with virtual presentations, but "My Town" signals a return to normalcy -- which makes it all the more meaningful.

"We haven't seen anything like this in a long time," sixth grader Alex Swagert said. "And it felt pretty good to watch it with my friends again."

Meanwhile, student McRae Luther ranked the experience number one in terms of fun factor.

For more on the organization, visit InsideBroadway.org.

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