Chris Lemone was Staples High School’s beloved outreach counselor. His death 2 years ago from a heart attack — at age 49 — left a hole in the lives of countless students who found his office to be a warm and welcoming place for advice, support, compassion, love (tough and gentle) and laughter.
It also ripped a hole in his family. Chris’ middle daughter Madison was a Bethel High School sophomore when her dad died suddenly that October weekend.
Madison’s passion was always dance. Ballet, tap, jazz — she did it all with Broadway Method Academy. The Fairfield-based non-profit offers classes, private coaching and performance opportunities to children and teenagers interested in acting, singing and dancing.
One of the Broadway performers Madison worked with was Westport star Kelli O’Hara.
After her father died, Madison says, “I struggled a lot. But BMA helped me through a really tough time. The arts have always been there for me, and it was one place I could really express myself. It was like an encouraging community that kept me sane.”
So Madison is especially pleased that BMA is now the Westport Country Playhouse‘s resident conservatory.
The partnership will help the Playhouse offer musical theater training, masterclasses and a mainstage show.
The collaboration began in July with 3 days of seminars, panels and activities, all focused on the technical world of theater prior to the Playhouse production of “Grounded.”
For the upcoming November 27 “Broadway Sings” fundraiser, BMA students will share the Playhouse stage with Broadway talents.
During the mainstage production of “Evita” (January 28 through February 11), professional actors will team up with BMA students.
Also ahead: a 6-day March masterclass.
“My dad had a strong influence on Westport,” Madison says. “I’m really excited to see how my world combines with his in Westport.”
She adds, “I know I’m not the first person with a story. BMA allows each person to come out of their shell. A lot of times, we hide what we’re feeling. BMA lets each student show what they’re going through. It allowed me and others to heal, onstage and off.”
Now, through the Playhouse, Madison says, “I’m excited to see BMA influence other kids, in Westport.”
She has found a home in Broadway Method Academy. She looks forward to feeling grounded at the Playhouse too.
Madison graduates from Bethel High in June. She’s applying to musical theater colleges. If that doesn’t work out, she may study psychology.
“My dad loved shows,” Madison says. “But he really knew a lot about people too. We’re a lot alike.”