To say this holiday season will be full of cheer for Henderson student Benjamin Barnes is putting it lightly.
Through his participation in The Smith Center’s annual Camp Broadway youth theater program, the 14-year-old has earned the opportunity to perform with a handful of other Southern Nevada youths in a festive song-and-dance routine in the 87th Hollywood Christmas Parade on November 25.
Following their recent successful auditions, Benjamin and four other local Camp Broadway participants will perform “A Christmas Song” from “Elf the Musical” in the parade, alongside 58 other talented youths from Camp Broadway programs across the United States.
An iconic event known for its larger-than-life balloons, marching bands, celebrity performers and pageantry, the Hollywood Christmas Parade attracts more than 1 million attendees each year and will broadcast on television for millions in the month of December.
“I’m kind of awestruck,” Benjamin says. “People I’ll probably never meet in my life will see me on TV.”
His father Brett, an elementary school music teacher, adds that this opportunity will offer Benjamin valuable experience he can’t get anywhere else.
“My wife and I are just thrilled,” Brett says. “I hope Benjamin meets new friends and gets insight into the process of what it takes to put on a production of this size.”
Embracing Performance with Camp Broadway
Benjamin has already gained many insights into live performance, after participating in Camp Broadway at The Smith Center for five years.
Divided into two weeklong, age-appropriate camps, this program gives Southern Nevada children and teens the opportunity to learn theater skills from top industry professionals. The Mainstage Camp for youths ages 10 to 17 concludes with a finale performance on stage in Reynolds Hall.
The Smith Center is among organizations in select cities nationwide to offer Camp Broadway, a national initiative that provides summer camps, workshops and performance opportunities for children.
Benjamin enjoys Camp Broadway because of the new friends he makes, he says, and the chance to embrace his joy for performing.
“I’ve learned a lot of theater terms and how things run backstage, and I just love performing on the Reynolds Hall stage,” says Benjamin, who attends Las Vegas Academy of the Arts and aspires to become a TV actor.
Camp Broadway also builds important life skills, Brett adds.
“The thing I’ve always liked about the Camp Broadway program is it teaches the young performers how to work as a team and to be part of an ensemble,” Brett says.
Taking Part in an Iconic Parade
When the Barnes family heard that Camp Broadway participants across the nation could audition to perform in the Hollywood Christmas Parade, Benjamin was eager to take part.
He was hand-picked to participate after submitting a video audition he prepared with his dance instructor.
“Finding out that they looked at his video and decided he’d be a good fit is very exciting,” Brett says.
In the days before the event, the Camp Broadway performers will go through full-day rehearsals on a movie-studio lot in Los Angeles.
The rehearsals will be led by top performers from film and television. During the parade, the Camp Broadway youths will also perform with the Hollywood Pantages’ Jerry Herman Award-winning Best Actress Brighton Thomas and Best Actor Daniel Kohanbash.
“For Benjamin to be working with people of that caliber is just priceless,” Brett says.
Close Ties with The Smith Center
On top of Benjamin’s Camp Broadway experience, the Barnes have a long history with The Smith Center.
Brett and his wife Cassie, also a music teacher, first met at The Smith Center during a professional teaching workshop.
Both have also participated in The Smith Center’s Disney Musicals in Schools program, which helps elementary schools create their own sustainable theater programs.
“Anytime we see something The Smith Center is involved in, we know it’s going to be a quality experience,” Brett says.
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