Arts & Entertainment

2 Somerville High School Students Perform in Elite Musical Theater Showcase at Rutgers University

Hayden Verbanas, 15, a sophomore at Somerville High School, will perform in a musical showcase at Rutgers University on Saturday, Feb. 4 Credits: Courtesy Rutgers News Service

SOMERVILLE, NJ - Hayden Verbanas and Robyn Wassermann, sophomores at Somerville High School, have learned a valuable lesson outside the confines of a classroom as they pursue their passion for theater, music and dance.

They’ve learned to juggle. Class work, homework, learning and practicing new dance routines or songs, performing solo or working in ensembles, preparing for auditions - it’s a never-ending swirl of practice, practice, practice – and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Hayden, 15, a borough resident, and Robyn, 16, who lives in Branchburg, are two of the 17 high school students from around the state  selected to perform in a showcase sponsored by the Rutgers High School Musical Theater Academy, with performances of conceptual renditions of Broadway songs and ensemble dance numbers.

Sign Up for E-News

Hayden and Robyn have joined with other selected students from Allentown, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Elizabeth, Fords, Freehold, Green Brook, Highland Park, Milltown, Tuckerton, Warren and Philadelphia, Pa. every Saturday since September to learn and practice their routines for the show, which is on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. at the Loree Studio located at 70 Lipman Drive on the Douglass campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Robyn wants to major in musical theater in college, with a minor in music education. She is a member of the Drama club, Photography club and Science club at SHS, and is a member of the school’s Chamber Choir. She is taking private voice lessons and plays the guitar.

For Hayden, this is his third year working with the elite group of high school performers at Rutgers.

He, too is a member of the Somerville High School Chamber Choir, the Drama club and also takes private voice lessons. He plays piano and the ukuklele.

In college, he’d like to pursue a musical theater business degree.

He is taking college prep classes through the auspices of the Somerville Academy of Liberal Arts, which is an adjunct of Raritan Valley Community College. He will earn an associate degree from RVCC when he graduates Somerville High School.

“It requires a lot of studying,” Hayden said. “Some nights I get home at 8 p.m., and I want to practice at least one hour a day, on monologues, songs, dance, but it’s hard sometimes and I have to say ‘I can’t do anything else.’”

Despite the grind, he maintains a 90-91 average in the classroom.

Both Hayden and Robyn say they get by with 6-7 hours of sleep each night.

Robyn is an honors student at SHS; her grade point average hovers around 88-90.

There’s homework to be done on those nights when she comes home late after practice with the drama club or chamber choir: she said it is sometimes difficult to stay focused.

“I get distracted doing homework,” she said.

Not so when it comes to music.

“I think I excel most at voice, acting and dancing in that order," she said.

“I’ve been in choir ever since I could, second- or third-grade,” she said.

She credits longtime Somerville High School choral director Karen Grozynski for helping to nurture her love of music.

“Mrs. G has really pushed me and encouraged me to pursue singing, she’s been very supportive; she’s definitely been a big influence on my singing career,” she said.

The Rutgers High School Musical Theater Academy, now in its fourth year, is offered through the Mason Gross Extension Division.

The academy aims to provide talented high school students from the tri-state area with the skills needed to excel in the professional world of musical theater. Students, who are accepted by audition, undergo rigorous training in dance (jazz and ballet), voice, acting and stage performance.

Additionally, conservatory students receive audition and industry coaching as well as technical feedback from New York theater professionals. The focus of the program is to teach all aspects of the craft, including choreography and physical storytelling, character and scene development, vocal technicality and music theory.

At the end of the semester, students present an original performance showcase where industry executives, including talent agents and casting directors, are invited to attend.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit or call 848-932-8618.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


East Brunswick's Girl Scouts Work With Young Woman's Busy Schedule

March 22, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Have you wanted to join a Girl Scout troop, but just don't have the time? Check out this out. Busy teens can be Independent Girl Scouts -- all the programs and awards without the scheduled troop meetings. Teen girls can do badge work, attend events, travel, earn awards or do community service on their own time. (And ...

Freeholders Endorse Armed Security in all Somerset County Schools

March 23, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Following the Parkland, Fla school shooting last month in which 17 students and staff were killed, Somerset County Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione and Freeholder Mark Caliguire Thursday announced that the freeholder board will fund a second armed school resource officer at the county Vocational & Technical High School in Bridgewater, and urged every school ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Sat, March 24, 12:00 PM

Middlesex County College - Center Cafe C, Edison

Mission 22 United in the War Against Veteran ...

ELCR to Host Webinar: ‘How to Use and Understand ELCR’s 'Horse-Friendly Zoning Practices in American Communities'

March 22, 2018

LEXINGTON, KY — Equine Land Conservation Resource (ELCR), in partnership with My Horse University, announced a new webinar “How to Use and Understand ELCR’s “Horse-Friendly Zoning Practices in American Communities” guide. Author and planner Christine Hughes, AICP, will show viewers how to navigate and use the new guide.

The webinar will be held on Tuesday, March ...

Travel Spotlight Charity Event - North Plainfield Firefighters will host their 15th St. Baldrick’s Day head-shaving event on March 24

March 23, 2018

The North Plainfield Firefighters will host their 15th St.Baldrick’s Day head-shaving event on March 24 at 1 P.M. at fire headquarters.

The annual event welcomes volunteer “Shavee’s” into the firehouse to brave-the-shave as a sign of solidarity with kids who lose their hair to cancer treatments. A small but meaningful and significant ...

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...