Ten-year-old Brandon Singel loves hanging out with his friends and playing like any other kid, but he's is also performing in a 40-show-run of "The Music Man" at the 500-seat Westchester Broadway Theatre.
I have always wondered about the opposing values of allowing children a completely care free childhood—a period without any responsibility that can never be replicated in later years—or maximizing a child's talents and giving them a head-start by exposing them to as many opportunities and experiences as possible.
Brandon’s parents pondered the same question. While his mother Regina Singel, a teacher at , is of the firm belief that “when life throws opportunities into your lap, you go for it,” she admits that Brandon’s father, Brandt Singel, had reservations.
“Brandt wanted to make sure Brandon really wanted to do this and was prepared to give up day camp and a trip to Europe to make it work," Regina explained. "Plus he has seen too many struggling actors and didn’t want to give Brandon a false sense of what this business is all about.”
Brandon literally began performing in the womb, thanks to his mother’s love of community theatre. After performing pregnant with Brandon, Regina had him perform as a baby for the Harrison Players and Brandon has undertaken many roles since.
The two have always been in casts at the same time. They have performed together at the College of New Rochelle, with the Harrison Players and with the Actors Conservatory Theatre in Yonkers, among others.
This type of opportunity does not come without a significant time commitment. Rehearsals for "The Music Man" began in June with rehearsals every day until the July 5 opening date. Brandon would complete a full day at school followed by a four-hour rehearsal.
With the show underway, Brandon performs full shows Thursday through Sunday along with two matinee shows twice a week. He gets home around 10:30 p.m., an hour and a half past his usual bedtime. Interestingly enough, Regina says there are no rules as far as she is aware of in community theatre limiting the amount of time children can rehearse or perform.
But Regina says the time commitment is well worth it when balanced with the advantages Brandon has gained.
“This is a fantastic, memorable experience,” she said. “Brandon has learned self confidence, how to get along with people of all ages and how to carry on a conversation with anyone. He has grown up a lot.”
Brandon agrees, saying he doesn’t get nervous and has fun being on stage and interacting with other cast members.
“’The Music Man’ is my favorite role so far because there are more kids in this cast and we are all having a lot of fun,” he said.
Regina says the line of when to pursue an opportunity for a child and when to pull back has to come from the child.
“I would say to mothers to take your cue from your kid, while Brandon initially went into some of his bigger roles kicking and screaming, thinking he didn’t want people looking at him, I didn’t want him to miss the opportunity without at least giving it a try," she said. "He’s just so talented that it would have been a shame for him not to explore this. But if he had hated it when he got into the rehearsals we would have got out of it.”
While Brandon hopes to do another play next summer, his dad can rest easy. Brandon wants to be an architect or an engineer, not an actor.
And just like any kid, he wants to be able to have his cake and eat it too. When asked if he prefers rehearsing or playing with his friends, Brandon’s response was immediate.
“Playing with my friends!”
For reservations to ‘The Music Man’, running through August 26th, call 914-592-2222 or visit www.BroadwayTheatre.com