The Spirit of Theater – ‘Ghosts of Broadway’ promises to present the stars of tomorrow in a new musical

Hamlet may have died avenging his father’s murder, but he’s spent a bit of time in the afterlife brushing up on his Broadway musical knowledge. That is the admittedly silly thesis that results in a lot of song and dance behind “Ghosts of Broadway,” the first production from Big Stage Productions, the performance arm of Santa Barbara Dance Arts. Kids from ages 8 and up will show their love of musical theater this Monday night.

Big Stage answers what founders Dauri Kennedy, Laezer Schlomkowitz, Steven Lovelace, Alana Tillim and Kathy Kelley saw as a real need in Santa Barbara. With the increasing popularity of “High School Musical,” “Glee” and “American Idol,” as well as a new interest in Broadway through a new decade of classics, a generation of children is coming up desperate for training in the all-singing, all-dancing arts.

“People are eager and hungry for it,” Tillim says. “And we are having students coming from all over.”

In “Ghosts of Broadway,” written by Schlomkowitz, a group of kids explore a dark, spooky theater, meet the aforementioned post-tragic ghost and get a crash course in this history of the Great White Way. The kids sing “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” as well as hits from “Aladdin,” “Mary Poppins” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” It’s a bit of a metaphor for Big Stage Productions itself.

Last year, Kennedy and Schlomkowitz approached Santa Barbara Dance Arts and mentioned the lack of local training in musical theater. SBDA had the space, they said, so why not start a conservatory? Officially, Big Stage Productions starts in the fall, but the founders wanted a “soft opening” this summer to give the public a taste of their new venture. So far, the conservatory hasn’t needed any advertising — word of mouth, provided by the students, has been plenty — and 30 have already signed up for fall.

Tillim also points out that the productions are byproducts, not the totality, of the conservatory. In the fall, students, if they so desire, will get the training to succeed in high school plays or go on and have a career in the field.

“They need to learn how to use their voice,” she says, “and touch their toes, and point their legs and develop their craft at being more than one character.

“We have kids with some real raw talents that we’ve been working with for only 13 weeks,” Tillim says. “When we get to January, I think they’re going to be mind-blowing.”

January is when Big Stage Productions plans to mount its next production, “The Wiz of Oz,” at the Lobero. It will combine the original Broadway “Wizard” with the 1970 “Wiz” re-imagining. The organization’s first choice for a follow-up to “Ghosts,” “The Wiz of Oz” changed when the amount of applications necessitated more roles.

“Kids love ‘Wicked,’ ” Tillim. “They love ‘American Idiot’ (the Green Day album-turned-musical). Broadway is having a renaissance for the young right now. It used to be seen as a little irrelevant, but not anymore. Kids want to be Broadway stars.”

When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Center Stage Theater, Paseo Nuevo (upstairs)
Cost: $15
Information: (805) 963-0408,,

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