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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Dreamer’s Stage by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz is a delightful teenage drama that explores the choices and sacrifices a young person must make to follow their dreams and how those choices affect others and cannot, fairly, be made in isolation. Josephine Ricco (Joey to her friends) is a fifteen-year-old tenth-grader with stars in her eyes and big dreams. Coached by a former Broadway chorus singer who is now her future sister-in-law and high-school music teacher, Joey is determined her voice will take her out of the lowly streets of Italian immigrants and onto the Broadway stage and true fame. When the school’s production is announced to be The Sound of Music, Joey and her friends are sure she was just born to play the part of Maria. First, though, she has to overcome her biggest singing nemesis, Jessica Macalister, but the excitement only increases when she realizes her lead partner (The Captain) will be none other than the immensely talented, fun, and seriously handsome Daniel Nicholas, from nearby St. John’s Prep School. Nothing could be more exciting for this young girl as she embarks on a journey she truly believes will end on Broadway.
The Dreamer’s Stage is a sweet, funny, and beautiful tale of young love, ambition, and disappointment. Author Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz has created two lead characters that are true to form and redolent of Rachel and Finn from Glee or Gabriella and Troy from High School Musical. I particularly enjoyed Joey’s battle between her embracing her Italian heritage, being proud of it, and celebrating it, versus her clear embarrassment at the differences between her and Daniel’s lifestyles and socio-economic status. Joey’s family were proudly Italian and culturally Italian, yet Joey was torn between wanting to break free from the stifling provincialism and enter the bohemian world of Broadway musicals. The author did an excellent job of identifying the core issues facing teenagers, even those with perceived talent advantages, such as Joey and Nick. This story flowed, was very easy to read, and is more than capable of being read in just a single sitting (as I did). I’m probably as far away from the author’s intended demographic as possible, but I can still say this is a very enjoyable read and one I feel most teenagers will grasp, understand and identify with the characters' fears, motivations, and angst. I can highly recommend it.