Music Theater Works helps kids live their Broadway dream

Musical theater could be considered a triple threat, meeting Illinois learning standards for reading, social-emotional learning, and athletics. But in the hands of the professional performers who share their passions with the kids who flock to Music Theater Works’ summer programs, musical theater feels like a home where they can be themselves amidst all that learning.

“Kids are learning to be so much more empathetic, they’re learning to be creative, they’re learning interpersonal skills, they’re having fun with their peers, which hasn’t been the case in recent years,” says Kyle Dougan, Music Theater Works. ‘ Production Artistic Director, about the theater company YouthREACH Kids Company, for children ages 8-13, and Youth Company, for children ages 13-18.

Above all, the programs bring pleasure.

Led by professionals who are already making a name for themselves on stage, the programs are perfect for all children, with a place for those who would just like to get into musical theater or want to see what serious musical theater is all about. . children who only have eyes for their name in the lights. “They not only teach kids skills that are great for kids who might enjoy musical theater, but they also accept and create an environment that empowers kids to explore themselves,” Dougan says of the teachers.

No one is turned away in this environment without an audition. And everyone has the chance to be the star of the show if that’s what they want, says Alexandra Nelson, head of development at Music Theater Works. The Kids Company program uses “team casting,” where a single performance can have multiple stars sharing the lead role, she says. There are also great places for kids who want to be part of the ensemble or be star dancers.

Each week they put on a show for families and the community, to thunderous applause each time.

“It really feels like they’re living their dream as a Broadway performer,” Dougan says.

Nelson and Dougan took a few moments from their busy planning for summer shows to share what’s in store for the kids and how Music Theater Works can provide a summer they – and their families – will remember.

A summer of musical theater

There are good reasons why kids come back year after year for the program, Nelson says. She cites a RAND Corporation study that determined the requirements for a successful summer program, and she’s proud to say that Kids Company and Youth Company touch everyone: cool t-shirts, snacks, active performers in the profession, a beautiful space, a culture of high expectations that affirm children as participants and performers, the ability to create positive relationships with mentor and peers, and an atmosphere that fosters a sense of belonging and ‘acceptance.

Dougan says the whole team makes sure the kids are “seen for themselves” in a place they call home.

“It gives every kid the chance to be a star,” Nelson says.

Music Theater Works is uniquely suited to follow all state, local, and national guidelines regarding the protection of children and staff from COVID, as it offers indoor/outdoor space, outdoor rehearsal spaces, and a nearby park to relax. ensure everyone has plenty of fresh air. It’s almost like their own little bubble, Dougan says.

Children can join for one week or all five and many return year after year. This summer, the Kids Company will perform music sound, musical high school, In the woods, Shrek Jr. and Mary Poppins Jr.. The Youth Company will have professional experience through the execution Little Mermaid at the Northshore Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s been a great year to get back into acting,” Dougan said. “Our live theater is getting back on its feet and I think it’s time for the kids to come back too.”

Music Theater Works also offers paid production internships through YouthREACH Tech, and a truly unique, free program through YouthREACH Teach that teaches performing to theater patrons. Scholarships are available.

Learn more about Kids Company and Youth Company at

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