ALAINA BOZARTH, a junior honor roll student and member of Thespian Troupe 8167 at Metro-East Lutheran High School in central Illinois, almost talked herself out of entering The Prom’s “Dance with You” contest, a collaboration between the show’s producers and the Educational Theatre Foundation to send one high school student to New York to see the new musical.

Interested Thespians were asked to submit videos of themselves singing one of the show’s signature songs. “I originally wasn’t going to send in a video at all,” said Bozarth. “I thought the contest was a great opportunity but believed there was no way I could actually win. Then I listened to the song ‘Dance with You’ and fell in love with it. I couldn’t stop listening. I decided that even if I just sang this song once or twice, it would be worth it. So I practiced with the song on repeat in my car, recorded my video over and over, and finally sent it in.”

Much to her surprise, Bozarth’s submission was selected. In January, she found herself the guest of Joe Grandy, one of The Prom’s producers, at the Longacre Theatre for a performance of the show. We reached out to Bozarth to learn more about her once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Part of your prize package included the opportunity to go behind the scenes at The Prom. What was the most exciting part of that experience?
ALAINA BOZARTH: I ended up getting to go backstage before and after the show. There was a CD signing before the show at Theatre Circle [a Broadway shop in Shubert Alley]. I went there and was honored to meet some of the cast, producers, and Matthew Sklar, the man who wrote all of the amazing music. Then, I got to go backstage and see all of the intricate set pieces and props.

It surprised me how many set pieces they could fit in such a small place. They had beds and lockers hanging 20 feet in the air, with booths hidden underneath them. It must have been planned by someone with serious organizational talent.

Seeing all the sets and props beforehand made me pay attention to scene changes in the show, which I normally wouldn’t have. Everything moves so effortlessly that you forget how much time and energy goes into making sure all the sets go where they need to. But since I had gone backstage before the performance, I felt as though I had a greater perception of everything that went on offstage and onstage.

By far the most exciting thing was that I got to meet Caitlin Kinnunen, who plays Emma, onstage after the show. She is one of the kindest people I have ever met. I have looked up to her since I heard her sing and talk about her character. Getting to meet her was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

You also received a one-on-one meeting with a member of the show’s creative team. What was the most significant takeaway from your discussion?
AB: I met the wonderful Joe Grandy, who is one of the producers of the show. He is also an actor and an amazing tap dancer who has performed in national tours and at regional theatres including The Muny in St. Louis, where I go all the time.

I got a lot of advice from him about colleges for theatre and what I should be looking for. He also explained to me what he does as a producer for the show and how he worked his way up in the business. It’s hard to find one main thing I took away from the conversation because he had so many interesting things to say. I definitely was touched by his and the entire Prom team’s overflowing kindness. Everyone I talked to was willing to help me and answer any questions I wanted to ask them, which was an unexpected but wonderful gift.

What else did you do while you were in New York City?
AB: I had been to New York once before about a year ago, but I had been begging to go again ever since. I visited Pace and New York universities while I was there because both of those schools have wonderful theatre programs. My mom and I also saw Mean Girls our first night.

My favorite part of the trip, by far, was seeing The Prom. It was the most amazing story about love and acceptance that also makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts. I had high expectations for the show, and they were surpassed 10 times over. I can’t even describe how wonderful the entire show is.

Do you have plans to study theatre after high school? 
AB: I do intend to study theatre in college! It’s a really exciting decision I made recently with the help of my teachers, directors, and the support of my parents and siblings. It’s stressful and scary sometimes to start looking at colleges, but I’m super excited for my future in theatre.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of your Thespian experience?
AB: I love telling stories. I also love being able to put my own spin on some amazing characters. I am so lucky to have played two of my dream roles recently, which are the Witch in Into the Woods and Marian in The Music Man. A few other roles I hope to play in the future are Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sophie in Mamma Mia!, and Julie Jordan in Carousel. Obviously, I have a million more, but those are just the top ones.

Theatre has helped me be myself in high school. I have so much more confidence than I used to, and I owe so much of that to being a part of musical theatre. Not very many people at my school participate in theatre, so it was hard at first to be one of the only “theatre kids.” Even so, I learned to embrace my theatre qualities, and I am so happy I did. All of my friends totally support me and come to all my shows, which is amazing. I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such supportive and loving people.

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