Student of the Month – Stephanie Garofalo


What companies/classes are you currently in?

I am a Sr. Cat with Mickey and a Tap Cat with George, presently taking numerous company dance classes, plus I sing with Heather and act with Stephen. I took most of my ballet classes with Eva when I was younger at Marlboro, and continued when I was older with Lainie, and Susan. I have been part of four Nutcrackers, the last two on pointe.


When did you start at Center Stage?

I was 6 and began in the old Marlboro studio with a curtain-up class.


What was your Center Stage journey?

I started very young, simply enjoying my non-competition classes of all kinds: jazz, tap, and ballet. As I grew up, I realized I wanted to be placed in more advanced classes and keep improving my technique in the three core areas as well as take other classes such as hip hop and lyrical. I started company classes as a Jr. Cougar and a Sr. Tap Kid and enjoyed it very much. While continuing to dance, I got involved in voice lessons and musical theater classes as well, which eventually led me to acting with Stephen. All of my teachers up until this point have continuously inspired me to reach the level I am at right now and I can definitely say I enjoyed every step along the path.


Do you remember your first dance routine?

I’m pretty sure I was dressed as a scarecrow in a jazz routine.


You’re a Triple Threat:  Actor/Singer/Dancer.  Did you start out in just a dance class?  What attracted you to the others, and when did you begin singing and acting?


I was initially enrolled in just dance classes, but soon after I discovered the musical theatre class with Leonie Higgins. After two years of loving musical theatre, I started voice lessons with Heather. I was told very early that I had some singing talent, which inspired me to pursue voice lessons and train the best I could. I will never forget when George asked me to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow at Middlesex County College at only 9 years old in one of our little kids’ shows. I stayed in musical theatre one more year but wanted to be part of Stephen’s acting class as soon as possible. I acted in many of the little kids’ shows and acting showcases. I wanted it all. Meanwhile, I kept rising up in the Marlboro jazz and tap companies until middle school when I became a Jr Tap Cat and Jr. Cat. I became a Cat Apprentice in 9th grade and finally, a Cat at the end of sophomore year. Although I acted in the little kids’ shows when I was younger, it wasn’t until middle school that I started auditioning for the big shows in June. After my first big show, I auditioned and was a part of them every year.


When did you know that this was more than just an after school activity for you?

After having such an amazing sophomore and junior year performing and training and learning so much, I realized I could never see myself doing anything but theater in my lifetime. I have always had an interest in theater and creative writing, but once I realized I could incorporate these beloved hobbies into a lifestyle, I knew there was no turning back. The combination of Uprising, Trojan Women, and my high school’s Nice Work If You Can Get It was super important in helping me truly discover how I felt about theater. All three shows were amazing experiences and made me feel more alive than anything ever had before. I knew that I could never leave this part of myself behind if I wanted to find lasting happiness and so I would continue to love and take part in musical theater for the rest of my life.



You’re at the State Theatre this week, performing in your last Center Stage show.  Many of our alumni have come back to the State Theatre on touring shows.  What’s it like performing at the State Theatre, and what are your favorite memories?

The State Theatre is absolutely gorgeous. It has a huge capacity for the audience, a stage more than fit to inhabit any show and make it a great one, an abundance of backstage room, and an aura of success. It’s such an honor to perform there every year as so many groundbreaking shows have made their beginnings at the State Theatre or at least created impactful experiences for anyone speculating. My favorite memory at the State Theatre has to be when we performed “See How Far We’ve Come” in Uprising my sophomore year. I initially thought it was cool because we got to change on stage and come out in new costumes, but it ended up meaning so much more to me. We rehearsed this number an endless amount of times and it had a lot going on. However, beyond all the steps and notes and cohesiveness, there was this deep meaning just below the surface. In the show, it signified moving forward and going after what we wanted, which happened to be freedom, but personally, it hit home for me and reminded me of what I wanted in life. I remember all of the actors coming together at the end of the song and moving forward singing “See How Far We Go” and feeling more satisfied and hopeful than ever before. That was truly a show-stopping experience for me; unforgettable. Performing in the State Theatre has been simply fantastic all of these years and it may be one of the memories at Center Stage I miss the most.



Favorite role in any show, Center Stage or otherwise?

I’ve been blessed in playing so many great roles at Center Stage, but if I had to pick my favorites I would have to choose Jenna in Uprising, Andromache in Trojan Women, and Holly in Anton in Show Business. At Old Bridge High School, I was honored to play Billie Bendix in Nice Work If You Can Get It and thoroughly enjoyed this experience as well.


Why has it been worth all of the energy you’ve put in to it and the sacrifices you’ve made?

It is worth all the energy and dedication because I am one hundred percent in love with all aspects of singing, acting, and dancing. No other sacrifice could be as worthwhile as spending my time in classes at Center Stage.


What’s your favorite movie and why?

My favorite movie is actually a pretty silly movie I discovered my sophomore year. It’s called The Girl Next Door. The plot basically focuses on an intelligent high school senior who ends up falling in love with the girl who moves in next door. This seems like a cliché, but somehow in this movie, the crazy events he went through to prove he cared along with the plethora of plot twists made for an extremely exciting movie. After watching it a couple times, I realized the movie could be about anyone’s high school experience as it begins with the main character, Matthew, failing to have made any special experiences in his high school career. I knew I wanted to make my high school experience the best it could be from the very beginning, but this movie pushed me to strive for everything I wanted in life and more. It taught me to fight for what I believed in, even if it was something silly, and to never give up on the things I cared about. It also reiterated the fact that everything happens for a reason and to not take anything for granted, no matter how tough the situation proves to be, because somehow in the end, everything has a funny way of working out.


Favorite Broadway show?

I don’t think anything will ever compare to Phantom of the Opera. I love every show I go see, but Phantom stands out for me the most.


First Broadway show?

I think my first Broadway show ever actually was Phantom of the Opera!


TV Show you’re embarrassed to admit you used to watch?

I was definitely a Nickelodeon fanatic growing up, but that is nothing to be embarrassed about. I also enjoyed some Cartoon Network including Courage the Cowardly Dog and Danny Phantom. I did, however, watch a lot of awful dating shows like Parental Control and Dating in the Dark and they were terrible, yet I enjoyed them anyway.



If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

If I was an animal, I would be a fox because they are mysterious. I love a good mystery.


What’s next?

I am off to Syracuse University to obtain my Bachelors of Fine Art in Musical Theatre this August.



Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to have an impressive professional resume after 10 years that includes great regional theatre, off-Broadway, National Tours, and Broadway. I hope to gain some experience behind the camera and try acting on screen as well.



Will you come back to visit Center Stage, or are you gone for good when you’re out the door?

Absolutely! I can’t wait to watch the kids here continue to grow and the program continue to grow. Center Stage is truly an amazing place; I don’t believe anyone truly leaves for good.