RED BANK, NJ - Jenna Cia's love for theater blossomed during fifth grade. Like many Appleby Elementary School students, the Spotswood High School sophomore was excited about the prospect of taking part in Mr. Chris' annual spring production. A few years later, the Spotswood native is set to make her Off-Broadway debut in a new musical written and directed by Red Bank's David Meenan, who has many students in Monmouth County.
"Camp, A New Musical" premieres on Theatre Row in New York City for a limited run from July 17 through August 2. The family-friendly musical features a cast of performers that hail from the Garden State. Most of the cast like Cia are students of Meenan. Meenan is a private theater coach, helping students hone their singing, acting and dancing abilities.
"I'd been working with my singing coach since fifth grade," Cia explained. "He writes new things once in a while. He wrote a full length musical and decided to produce it."
The production first hit the stage at the Middletown Arts Center last summer and was met with positive reviews and success.
"He wanted to continue with it because he thought it had potential," Cia added.
After the performances concluded, Cia joined the other cast members in Asbury Park to complete a cast recording. At the cast party, Meenan shared the thrilling news that the production was headed Off-Broadway to NYC's Theatre Row. It is a dream come true for the young girl who wasn't quite sure if she should audition for a part in the fifth grade play.
Cia's mom Elise knew Meenan through her work with Pampered Chef. Prior to the fifth grade play she took her daughter to meet Meenan to see if she could sing. To the surprise of mother and daughter, Cia had the vocal chops, and wound up being cast as the lead, playing Ariel in Disney's "Little Mermaid Jr." Cia performed all through middle school, appearing in three Memorial Drama Club productions while continuing to work with Meenan. As a freshman in 2018, Cia was excited at the opportunity to take a full-year drama class.
Meeting Spotswood High School Drama, English and Communication teacher Annie Raczko has further enhanced the teen's passion for the theater. In addition to her education background, Raczko is a performer and appeared Off-Broadway last summer in the Manhattan Repertory Theater's Summerfest production of "The Sacrifice."
Raczko offers Cia and her fellow drama classmates real world advice and experience that comes straight from the heart, passing on her love and enthusiasm for the theater on to her students.
"I was excited to take drama class," Cia said of her freshman year. "I feel like she's (Raczko) taught me how to love it and how to do it professionally."
Last March, Cia took part in her first Spotswood Troupers’ production, playing Grasshopper in “James And The Giant Peach.” Next month, she takes on the part of Agwe, the god of water when the Troupers begin their four-performance run of “Once On This Island.” This summer of course, is the limited engagement at Theatre Row. Cia is taking on the role of Fawn who is a member of the Goodies.
“I’m a little nervous,” Cia said of her upcoming Off-Broadway debut. “But we had a couple of performances at the Middletown Arts Center for a weekend. That was good. It’s all people I know so it’s not like going into something new. So, I’m not as nervous as I probably would be if it was a new show that you have the pressure of it being Off-Broadway.”
Cia’s family will be right there as they are for all her performances. The teen said her family is extremely supportive of her theatrical aspirations.
“I think it is interesting to me, the whole effect of it,” Cia said of the theater. “Obviously, it gets harder. There are so many people that do this, but it really interests me and I feel like I could get somewhere.”
“Jenna is the consummate professional,” Raczko said. “Her training and technique show her dedication to her craft. She is a triple threat with a curiosity and depth that will take her far in her acting career.”
Tickets for “Camp, A New Musical” will be available through Telecharge and go on sale on April 1. The original cast recording can be downloaded on Spotify, YouTube Music, Play Music or Deezer. For additional information on the upcoming Off-Broadway musical, visit its website.