Meriden YMCA

Meriden Youth Theatre gets ready for its summer show

MERIDEN — Despite Wednesday’s hot weather, a group of students at the Meriden YMCA Mountain Mist Day Camp enjoyed final rehearsals ahead of their performance of “Junie B. Jones Jr., The Musical.”

The show will take place today and Friday at 8 p.m. at Mountain Mist Day Camp, 576 High Hill Road.

“Junie B. Jones Jr., The Musical” is an adaptation of four of Barbara Park’s books. The play tells the story of Junie B. Jones and her first day of first grade, where she encounters change, challenges and some exciting experiences.

Joe Oblon, Meriden Youth Theatre director, said the Meriden Youth Theatre at the YMCA is a year-round program for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students who take part in the productions sign up for Mountain Mist Day Camp’s specialty camps, which gives students the option of participating in cooking, arts, horseback riding or theater.

The theater specialty camp puts on eight productions a year. Four take place during the summer.

The theater group previously produced shows with adults but the program was canceled years ago. A show that will incorporate adults this year — “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical” — will be performed Aug. 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. Camp staff, interns and counselors in training are among those that will take part in the production.

“We are really looking forward to having the kids learn from being on stage with adults and with older actors,” Oblon said.

The youth theater puts together three productions in the fall and one in the spring.

“Elf-the Musical Jr,” — the next summer production — will be staged July 28 and 29 at 8 p.m.

Life Skills

“Musical theater is a great vehicle to teach life skills like responsibility, communication, public speaking,” Oblon said. “Those are skills they’ll take wherever they go in life.”

Sometimes when students graduate high school, they no longer go back to a theater group, Oblon said. In the future he would like to start a program offering roles to alumni.


Oblon said the amount of diversity in the program has increased in recent years.

“Unfortunately, theater has not been a very diverse outlet, traditionally,” he said. “Now, we begin to see that change, both here in Meriden and in other communities.”

In recent years, Broadway shows like “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” have featured diverse casts.

“We see that diversity showing up in New York on Broadway and it’s slowly trickling into the local community theaters as well and that’s been wonderful,” Oblon said.

Oblon said he looks forward to bringing more diversity to the program, adding that the city’s diverse school population will help.

Alexa Alvarez, 8, of Meriden, is part of the Meriden Youth Theatre at the YMCA. Alvarez, who is going into fourth grade, joined the theater group last year. She has always “loved” dancing and singing and a friend encouraged her to join. One of the things she enjoys the most is that the camp offers counselors that help students with their performing skills. She also enjoys collaborating with older students. Junie B. Jones Jr. is her fifth production with Meriden Youth Theatre.

When she grows up, Alvarez wants to be a teacher and would like to help out with theater camp during the summer. Alvarez said she knows some Spanish and is learning more from her father. She is looking forward to performing in Spanish when she is older.

Audrina Charneco, 9, of Meriden, was rehearsing for Junie B. Jones Jr. this week and will perform in Matilda in August. The current show is her favorite one so far, she said. Charneco wants a career in the performing arts when she grows up. She said the skills she’s learning now will help her in the future.

Tickets are available at the door or online at

ksantos@record-journal.com203-317-2364Twitter: @KarlaSantosNews

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Meriden Youth Theatre gets ready for its summer show