Following a captivating fully booked performance of their imaginative summer showcase, Broadway Academy Phnom Penh is set to hold a theatrical summer camp for children from ages four and up starting in July, when they will continue their mission of bringing the magic of performing arts to youth in Phnom Penh to the theme of Encanto.

In cooperation with Katy Dance Studio and with generous support from Raffles Le Royal Hotel, the academy’s fifth production was successfully held in early June. The story charted the course of the young daughter of a village chief as she sets out on a quest to save her people from environmental devastation, a theme more relevant than ever as our world contends with pollution and global warming.

Children from 14 nationalities, ranging in age from four to 12, were not only given the chance to explore their own creativity and expression, but also to learn about and immerse themselves in another culture.

This opportunity allowed them to interact with youth from around the world and train with director Craig Ziegler and Broadway Academy’s outstanding coaches once a week over a four-month period, during which they grew their theatrical skills in drama, voice and choreography.

“It’s really important for kids to be involved in activities that foster creativity and teamwork, especially in today’s world of smartphones,” said director Ziegler. 

Children as young as four performed for their first time on stage. Lion Media

“We are giving kids the experience of being on stage. Programmes like these give children a platform to express themselves and build confidence.

"Our approach to theatre is inquiry-based and student-centred. We ask the kids, 'Which character do you want to be?' and then we build our script from there. It's their choice, and that's what fuels their passion,” he explained.

Molnika Leang, who has acted in two of the academy’s productions so far, said, “It’s like a dream come true learning more about what I’m passionate about. I learned so much more beyond singing, dancing and acting here. Broadway Academy helped me gain confidence in myself and my abilities while also providing a very friendly environment that encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and socialise.”

“I also made amazing friends with people who love theatre as much as I do. This was truly a life changing experience,” she added.

Children of 14 nationalities worked together and shared cultural insights during the rehearsal process. Lion Media

Co-director Maria LaFollette-Bruno spoke briefly about the parallels the play draws with our own world and the challenges we face due to pollution and global warming. 

“In its most basic interpretation, the play could be taken as a metaphor. Young people are the future, and everyone needs to play their part in saving our planet,” she said.

The theme resonates with Cambodia’s own attempts to mitigate climate change and its impact on the community and the world, a crucial topic in today’s society. 

Hedy Ip, a parent of one of the performers, expressed her gratitude at the end of the performance, saying, “Thank you to the whole of Broadway Academy Phnom Penh for bringing a beautiful community together that embraces art, dance, drama, music, singing… and just amazing teamwork."

"Seeing the kids flourish and work so hard over the past months to bring us to where we are today was incredibly rewarding. We hope the academy will continue to grow and we encourage others to try it. Life is about beautiful moments like today's, so let’s keep creating more of them!" she added. 

During the production of the play, students built relationships and gained confidence. Lion Media

Thomas Bianco, executive assistant manager in charge of food and beverage at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh, expressed pride in their involvement.

“[Raffles] is proud to support all forms of cultural performance and in particular when it gives students the opportunity to perform in an international luxury hotel setting. It was our pleasure to host their performance in our ballroom,” he said.

According to Ziegler, arts and culture play a crucial role in the development of young minds. Engaging in artistic activities fosters creativity, critical thinking and emotional expression. It also encourages cultural awareness and appreciation, helping children understand and respect different perspectives and traditions. By participating in theatre and other artistic endeavours, children not only gain valuable skills but also build a sense of community and belonging. This is especially important for children who aren’t interested in sports or academic clubs. 

The inquiry-based and student-centred programme allowed the cast to take on roles they were most passionate about. Lion Media

"The philosophy of our theatre programme is about building relationships. You're in this together, taking on challenges together and ultimately succeeding together. It's more than just a beautiful production; it's about empowering students and helping them grow in confidence and communication,” he highlighted.

The Coconut Park-based group will next be holding a full-day summer “Encanto” camp from July 1-26, where students can learn or further their acting, dancing and singing skills. Auditions will begin on July 1 and their rendition of the play of the same name is scheduled for a final performance on July 26. 

Activities during the camp will also include skating, swimming, taekwondo, gymnastics, visual arts, costume design and field trips, said the academy.

After four months of hard work and team building, all performers received flowers following their successful performance. Lion Media