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Spotlight on Award-winning actress Sydney Weiser

By Cindy Mindell

WEST HARTFORD – It wasn’t until the opening of her high school production of “West Side Story” on April 29 that Sydney Weiser learned that the show’s producers were preparing to submit a video of the performance for consideration for a statewide award.

Two months later, at the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards held in June at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts cast won for Best Ensemble, Best Musical Direction, and Best Lighting. And Weiser picked up an award for Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role for her turn as “Maria.”

Presented by the Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich, the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards is an annual black-tie gala event that celebrates the arts and recognizes individual artistry in vocal, dance, and acting performances by Connecticut high school students. The program is affiliated with the National High School Musical Theater Award Program based in New York City.

A rising senior at both Hall High School and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Weiser spends five academic periods daily at Hall, followed by three hours of musical theater at the academy.

It’s no surprise that Weiser feels at home on stage: she is a distant cousin of the late actor Zero Mostel, best known for his Tony Award-winning portrayal of “Tevye” in the original Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof” and for screen roles such as “Max Bialystock” in the original film version of “The Producers”; and, her mother, Carolyn Mostel Weiser, was the longtime director of the children’s theater program at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford, until her retirement this year.

Weiser took her first curtain call in second grade, when she performed in the Mandell JCC’s production of “Pippin” as “Theo” (changed to “Thea” for Weiser). Often under the direction of her mother, Weiser performed in musicals throughout elementary school. She has also been part of productions at the Hebrew High School of New England in West Hartford.

In seventh grade, she began voice lessons and committed to serious training in ballet, jazz, and tap. She also took part in vocal competitions throughout Connecticut like the New England Region of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Bushnell’s Ensign-Darling Vocal Fellowship, and the Hartt School’s Vocal Honors Program.

Outside of school and performing, Weiser is a member of the USY youth group at Beth El Temple in West Hartford, where she has held leadership positions as chapter religious education vice president, regional t’fillah co-chair, and regional social action/tikkun olam co-chair. This year, she will share the chapter presidency with a fellow member. She also studies at Jewish Teen Learning Connection and attended Camp Ramah for the last eight summers.

This summer, Weiser attended the Carnegie-Mellon University School of Drama Pre-College Program, a six-week curriculum of singing, acting, ballet, jazz, directing, dramatic literature, and audition. She also participated in a film program where participants wrote and filmed an original short film. This year, she will apply to bachelors’ programs in musical theater.

“During those six weeks, I was surrounded by immensely talented and passionate students,” she says. “The summer was an invaluable experience that cemented my determination to continue pursuing a lifetime in musical theater.”

For Weiser, singing, acting, and dancing on stage is a lot of fun, but she finds that theater also has healing potential.

“People walk out of a show feeling inspired, or comforted, or even unsettled,” she says. “More than putting on a good show, I want to provide an opportunity for people to look at the world or themselves a little differently. I remember seeing the musical “Violet” on Broadway and realizing that I am beautiful. I want to give that sensation to people, even just one person.”

CAP: Sydney Weiser with Eric Larivee, musical director for “West Side Story” and department chair for the Greater Hartford Arts Academy musical theater department. 

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