Trumbull Theater Program Returns with ‘Beauty and the Beast’

TRUMBULL – These are challenging times for community and youth theater programs, said Brett Boles.

“A lot of them aren’t doing so well right now,” said Boles, an award-winning musical theater composer, lyricist, book author and musical director.

He attributes this to the fact that many theater programs were put on hiatus at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When you waste a year or two doing a program like this, you lose a bit of institutional memory and you have to rebuild some of it,” he said.

But Boles hasn’t seen that happen with the Trumbull Youth Association, the local theater program for which Boles is directing his 10th production.

That show, the beloved musical “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” opens August 4 at Trumbull High School. TYA has been around since 1969, and since then the organization has produced a full-scale musical every summer — except in 2020, when it took a pandemic hiatus.

This year’s production involves a cast and crew of over 80 youngsters between the ages of 13 and 21. TYA’s long-standing goal has been to use talented young locals to produce professional-quality performances, said Merial Cornell, the group’s co-producer and co-producer. artistic director.

“The community really benefits because we put on a really high quality show with a full orchestra,” she said.

She and her co-producer and artistic director Mary Joan Wright have been leading productions since 2009, when TYA presented “Seussical: The Musical.” The two began volunteering for the program when their own children started appearing on the shows and eventually took over.

TYA was started by Trumbull resident Mary Keane, who wanted to find something positive to do for children in the tumultuous late 1960s.

“It was started as a way to get kids involved,” Cornell said. “The late 60s was a turbulent time and they wanted something in the community to keep them busy.”

In many ways, the program performs a similar function today, Wright said.

“There really is a need for kids who don’t play sports and don’t have other activities that they like to have something to do,” she said. “It gives them something to do other than hang out in parking lots or at Starbucks or on their phones.”

It is also an outlet for children who have always loved music and the show. That includes 21-year-old Harrison Gilberti, who will play the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.”

“I’ve always been interested in music,” he says. When he heard about TYA, “I said to my mom, ‘I want to do this’.”

Gilberti’s first show with the band was actually with TYA Jr., TYA’s program for young children. In a fun twist, that first show was a production of “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” Gilberti played the arrogant Gaston, the Beast’s mortal enemy.

Since then, he has been performing and hopes to pursue a career in theatre. Gilberti said TYA was instrumental in helping him learn what he wanted to do with his life. “It’s just a beautiful place where you can come with your friends, have a wonderful time and learn something,” Gilberti said.

Boles said he first got involved after a friend told him the band was looking for a director.

In addition to his work with TYA, Boles is director of choirs at Hall High School in West Hartford and is a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop and the Dramatists Guild of America. He also recently had his new musical premiere “Time Stops” at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Boles said he was struck by TYA’s resilience during these difficult times. He said part of the reason is that TYA is a tight-knit group of creative people, some of whom have known each other for years. The band members are also deeply passionate about acting, he said.

“This year we are really ready to put on a spectacular show,” Boles said.

He echoed Wright and Cornell’s belief that TYA benefits both the community – which gets to see first-class production – and the young people of Trumbull.

“It teaches them individual responsibility and group responsibility,” Boles said. “It teaches them so much more than acting.”

‘Beauty and the Beast’ performances will be held at Trumbull High School Auditorium, 72 Strobel Road in Trumbull from August 4-7. Evening performances will take place on August 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. There will be two mornings. performances at 2 p.m. on August 6 and 7. All tickets are $20 and will be available at the door and online.

TYA is also offering a free performance for seniors on August 3 at 7 p.m. The performance has festival seating and no tickets are required. For more information, visit

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