A man grants his daughter a gap year wish by funding the $20,000 production of the musical Little Women

Julia Cerisano will play the lead role, Jo March, while her father will direct and produce the musical.  (Submitted by Eric Cerisano - photo credit)

Julia Cerisano will play the lead role Jo March while her father directs and produces the musical. (Submitted by Eric Cerisano – photo credit)

When Mark Cerisano’s 18-year-old daughter, Julia, said she wanted to put on a musical, he set about making it happen — even if it ended up costing him thousands of dollars.

Julia Cerisano is on a gap year after graduating from Three Oaks Senior High School in 2022, where her credits include acting in high school productions heather.

Her father said he could not say no to her request to perform a production given his background in music. He’s done everything from teaching music to playing the trumpet on cruise ships to directing shows and starting a piano tuning business.

The $20,000 production, which debuts this month, is based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic story little woman, about four sisters growing up in America during the Civil War.

Julia will play the lead role of Jo March.

Her father started a new non-profit theater company called the 8th Avenue Players for the show, hoping to break even with box office sales.

“If we don’t break even, I’ll have to pay for it,” he said.

Cerisano also enlisted his son to help with the production as one of many volunteers.

What started as a graduation gift to his daughter has evolved into an emotional experience of community work and family bonding.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

“I just look at her and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe she’s my daughter, she’s so talented,'” he said. “And I feel that way for a lot of the actors.

“I just stop and look at them and they grow so much.”

“The less work it is, the more fun it is”

Cerisano said work on the production began last fall after they secured the music rights from Music Theater International and booked the venue for the show – the 290-seat Scott MacAulay Performing Arts Center in Summerside.

Submitted by Eric Cerisano

Submitted by Eric Cerisano

Prior to his current position as a piano tuner at PEI, which he has been doing for 12 years, Cerisano’s love of music brought him into contact with the work involved in assembling music productions.

Now he leads the way as producer, director and musical director of the musical. He even builds the sets for the show.

“I’d like to do just one job,” he said. “There are a lot of people helping, but no one takes on the design and building responsibilities, like getting all the wood.”

Cerisano said he didn’t want the audience to experience the show without live music, so he assembled a live orchestra that included some musicians from the PEI Symphony Orchestra.

He also thanks Three Oaks Senior High School music teacher Krista Bryson for lending percussion instruments to the production.

“We only had one rehearsal with the orchestra and it just sounded great,” he said.

“The more people help, the less work it is and the more fun it is.”

‘Watch the Magic’

As opening night approaches, Cerisano said the possibility of something going wrong is what live performances are all about.

“Often when something goes wrong, audiences have no idea, but we do. And it’s kind of a roller coaster ride, you know?” he said.

“You just never know what’s going to happen – and when it does, [it’s] watch the magic.”

Little Women: The Broadway Musical runs February 23-25 ​​at the Scott MacAulay Performing Arts Center at the College of Piping in Summerside.


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