Theater Major Gets Big Break in NYC

Amara Breisch makes New York City debut thanks to Christopher Newport connection.

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Amara Breisch ‘20 almost missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

Drew Gasparini, an award-winning musical theater composer, lyricist and singer/songwriter, was coming to campus to hold a workshop.

Breisch, a musical theater major and dance minor from Grundy, Virginia had decided against auditioning, but changed her mind at the last minute. After being cast, she and dozens of students worked with Gasparini for about two weeks.

The experience culminated in the world premiere of “We Aren’t Kids Anymore,” Gasparini’s autobiographical song cycle. It is a set of related songs designed to be performed together in sequence.

The workshop and performance came about through relationships grown between Christopher Newport’s music and theater departments and an invaluable network of professionals, such as Gasparini.

“These creative collaborations between industry professionals and Christopher Newport’s faculty and students build bridges to unprecedented career opportunities for our musical theater students, not available anywhere else in the world,” said Bruce Bronstein, executive director of the Ferguson Center for the Arts.

After the final performance at the Ferguson Center, Breisch got a surprise from Gasparini: an invitation to perform in New York City in a concert. The show would celebrate the re-release of his album, “I Could Use A Drink.” He wrote on Instagram that she is “as gifted as they come” and a “mountain of talent.”

Breisch traveled to New York City to prepare to perform at the cabaret venue 54 Below, dubbed “Broadway’s Living Room.” She had company. Bronstein, Dr. Colin Ruffer, assistant professor of theater, and his wife, Diana, supported Breisch at 54 Below.

Actors and singers well-known in the New York entertainment world regularly perform in the intimate environment. In fact, stars that Breisch knows by voice alone supported Gasparini’s show. For example, singing that evening were Tony Award-nominated Alex Brightman, renowned vocal coach Natalie Weiss and Renee Rapp (Broadway’s “Mean Girls”), among others.

“It’s very exciting that I got to sing there,” Breisch said. “54 Below is a big thing. It’s not only fun but you know you’ve kind of made it. You’re there.”

One might expect to be intimidated or nervous in the circumstances, but Breisch kept her cool and performed a song from “We Aren’t Kids Anymore.” The pop theater song, upbeat at times and slower in some sections, shows off her range. She holds a long note toward the end, highlighting her excellent breath control.

“I was nervous about everyone else that was there, because these are all people I look up to. These are all people I’ve watched. … but I wasn’t nervous to sing because the song was in my bones.”

Thanks to her experience, Breisch now plans to graduate early next fall and head to New York to pursue her dreams of performing on Broadway, just a few blocks from 54 Below where she got her big break, thanks to a last second decision.

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