At just 16 years-old, Mateo Ferro only dreamed of performing at The Kennedy Center in a Lin-Manuel Miranda Tony Award Winning musical. But, right now, he is rehearsing alongside stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Eden Espinosa for just that dream.
Last month Broadwayworld.com and Playbill.com announced that Clarksburg’s Ferro was cast in the Washington, DC premiere of In The Heights which is set to run at The Kennedy Center from March 21 to March 25.
Ferro has been a dedicated performing arts student since he was as student at Rocky Hill Middle School where he began performing in the 7th grade production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.
“I've always loved singing,” said Ferro, “I just had really bad stage fright. But it all changed in the 7th grade when I did a class project show. I was in the ensemble in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and had such a blast. After that I decided to audition for my middle schools production of Aladdin. I got the part of Aladdin, the funny thing is that the one role I did not want was the lead because I was so nervous. But it ended up being a blast and what started this journey, and I haven’t stopped since. Huge thanks to Jerilyn Nacht, my director as a kid, she really started my drive for theatre. Also, shout out to CHStage.”
But it wasn't until he enrolled in Young Artists of America at Strathmore, that his dream of professional performances was realized. Young Artists of America at Strathmore is the region’s premier training organization for collaborative performing artists. It is the only known program in the nation where high school and middle school students receive mentorship and individualized instruction from renowned artists while training to perform fully-orchestrated works of music-theatre in state-of-the-art venues.
Ferro’s role in the Kennedy Center production is one that he’s familiar with, he also played Sonny in the Clarksburg High School production just last year.
“Sonny is Usnavi's, the protagonist of the story, younger cousin. He's a scrappy kid who thinks a lot of himself,” said Ferro. “He jokes around a lot but stays true to himself and everyone around him. He’s just that role that everyone will fall in love with...well, that is if I do it right. I’ve memorized my lines and solos mainly because I did this role at my high school, CHStage. But yes, I had to re-learn most of it and have learned my music parts with my vocal teacher. I just really want to be prepared and have the role locked down before the start of rehearsal because, as you can see from the cast list, these are the real deal actors. I’m just a small town kid from Maryland dreaming about these kind of things.”
Although Ferro only needed to travel from Clarksburg, his experience at last year's Summer Intensive set this dream in motion. Ferro was cast as the lead, playing Usnavi in YAA's summer showcase production of In The Heights. His performance, which he perfected during the two-week summer intensive, made a lasting impression on YAA's Founder and Artistic Director, Rolando Sanz. So much so, that when Sanz was contacted by The Kennedy Center's Casting Director over the fall of 2017 in search of a young, local performer who could also rap, Sanz thought of Ferro immediately. The casting director then invited Ferro to audition for the role of Sonny, and was subsequently cast.
“I hope it opens doors for me to work even harder and grow,” said Ferro. “You never have a peak so I want to prove that, and keep working and growing, working and growing for the rest of my life. I want to be a performer for the rest of my life and I hope this starts something for me.”
YAA is the only known program in the nation where high school and middle school students receive mentorship and individualized instruction from renowned artists while training to perform fully-orchestrated works of music-theatre in state-of-the-art venues. With campuses in Montgomery County and Howard County students from all over the mid-Atlantic region participate in performing ensembles, while many travel from overseas for their Summer Performing Arts Intensives.
Top: Clarksburg High School’s Mateo Ferro will star as Sonny in the Kennedy Center production of In the Heights which will run from March 21 through March 25.
Next: Video of Mateo Ferro performing in Young Artists of America at Strathmore production of In The Heights which ran last summer, where Ferro played the lead role of Usnavi.
Next: Ferro as Usnavi in the YAA’s production of In The Heights last summer.
Photos and video courtesy YAA.