A Moment in the Woods: Aspiring Performers Tackle La Cage, Sweeney Todd and More at French Woods Theatre Camp

By Michael Gioia
01 Aug 2013

Roberto Morean in Deathtrap.

"It depends on how you go into it," said Morean, who hails from Miami, FL, and starred as Sidney Bruhl in Ira Levin's Tony Award-nominated comedy Deathtrap (while simultaneously rehearsing for La Cage aux Folles, in which he will play the cagelle drag queen Angelique, and The Dream of the Burning Boy, the David West Read drama that played Roundabout Underground's series in 2011). "If you go into it with a mindset like, 'It's not going to be a problem,' it's going to be tough. You need to be prepared. You go in with your lines memorized. If you go in ready to work with an open mind — ready to take in everything [the directors] give you — you'll be perfectly fine. It is a challenge…"

"We live for it though," Horton interjected.

To say that the students at French Woods "eat, sleep and breathe theatre" would be a fair assessment. "All my free time [at camp] was me cuddling my script," admitted 16-year-old actress Olivia Dei Cicchi, who came from West Palm Beach, FL, for her fourth summer at French Woods and was starring as Sweeney Todd's Mrs. Lovett the night Playbill.com was in attendance (and rehearsing for Kiss Me, Kate in the morning).

She continued, "It's really exciting because I don't get to do this at home. Mrs. Lovett and Lilli Vanessi [in Kiss Me, Kate] are totally different parts, so going back and forth between that is really fun. I get tired now and then, [but] I kind of just slap myself in the face and wake up! My dream is to be on Broadway, and I hope that one day I really can be. This is great preparation because I know when you're working in the city, you may be [performing] eight shows a week, all day rehearsing [and] always on your feet… And, I'm ready for that."

Olivia Dei Cicchi in Sweeney Todd.

Dei Cicchi, a young Patti LuPone in the making — embodying Mrs. Lovett with the proper amount of quirk, lunacy, eccentricity and wit — began her journey with French Woods (and musical theatre) at age 12, when she played the title role in Mame. Although she's landed lead roles throughout her years at summer camp, Lovett was "the dream."

"It's my dream role, and it has been every since I found out what musical theatre was, and it's been a dream come true," she gushed. "Normally, at French Woods, in one session, you get three weeks to put together a show, but Sweeney Todd was actually a carry-over [show, which gives campers additional rehearsal time]. Putting together Sweeney Todd in three weeks was definitely a lot of hard work and dedication, but it was such a blast."

A carry-over show at French Woods is for students who are "carrying over" into the following session. When they are cast in a carry-over, they are given an additional few days to rehearse, and instead of opening their show at the end of a three-week session, they are the first to perform in the following session. They are given additional performances (whereas in-session shows are given only two performances), and new campers who are just arriving are given a taste of what to expect from French Woods upon their arrival.