Leah Rose Crossan has always been drawn to the stage, to living a little while in someone else’s shoes, to dream their dreams and share their stories.
“I’ve always loved to perform. I’ve always loved making people smile or laugh,” the 15-year-old Mantua resident said. “I grew up around theater. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.”
This love of theater recently put Crossan on a new stage of sorts, performing a favorite Broadway song for viewers around the country, and quite possibly around the world, too. The Clearview Regional High School sophomore is a contestant in BroadwayWorld’s Next on Stage competition, a chance for high school and college singers to showcase their vocals – and, for the one who garners the most votes, get awarded for doing so.
Through Oct. 7, viewers can vote for Crossan’s performance of “He Wanted a Girl,” from the musical “Giant,” a song that holds a special place in the teenager’s heart.
“That song actually means a lot to me. It is my comfort song. I listen to it whenever I’m upset or I need to think about something,” Crossan explained. “It’s just a really beautiful song and I love the composer, Michael John LaChiusa.”
The BroadwayWorld competition is in its second season; the first launched in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students across the country were missing out on their long-awaited performance opportunities, and we felt it was our responsibility to step in and help in any way we could,” said Alan Henry, BroadwayWorld regional and digital managing editor.
That was certainly the case for Crossan, who saw her performance of Gingy in “Shrek the Musical” dashed when Clearview had to cancel its spring production due to the state quarantine. But Crossan didn’t know about the Next on Stage competition during its first season. It wasn’t until her mom recently saw an ad for season two on social media that the teen decided to take part.
Crossan’s interest in singing started in the same way so many little sisters’ interests do – by wanting to be like her big sister, Faith. As a little kid, Crossan would watch her sister – three years her senior – singing, inspiring her to start stretching her vocal cords, too.
“I always wanted to do what my older sister was doing,” Crossan said. “I just fell in love with it then, and I can’t stop.”
Crossan started performing in school musicals with “Footloose” in eighth grade. She was a stepsister in “Cinderella” last fall at Clearview. For three years, she has been in All South Jersey Choir, and she takes part in Clearview’s vocal ensemble, too.
Crossan credits much of her vocal development to her training with Arielle Egan at Resonance School of Music, who she calls an incredible instructor.
“I’m almost surprised how fast I’m learning to pick things up,” Crossan said.
While Crossan is proud of her entry in the BroadwayWorld competition, she recognizes she is up against a lot of talent.
“I’ve listened to some of them and thought, ‘Man, I’ve got some real competition,’” she said with a laugh.
Public voting for round one closes on Oct. 14, and from there winners move to a top 30, top 15, top 10, top five and top three round, with the season finale set for Nov. 13. Those who move forward enter a new song for each round. Judges get involved in further rounds, and for season two they include Lesli Margherita, Courtney Reed, Kate Rockwell, Brittney Johnson, Arielle Jacobs and Kyle Taylor Parker. BroadwayWorld’s Richard Ridge hosts the competition.
The winner receives a Broadway prize pack; a virtual voice lesson with Matt Farnsworth; a session with Rachel Hoffman; a free subscription to BroadwayWorld Edu worth more than $1,200; and a chance to record a single released by BroadwayWorld, with profits donated to The Actors Fund, as well as $1,000 to the charity of the winner’s choosing.
“At BroadwayWorld, giving back is very important to everyone on our team, as well as our partners in this competition – BroadwayRecords,” Henry noted. “We wanted to be able to empower all our contestants and our winners to use this platform – the Next on Stage competition has a very dedicated viewership – to raise awareness for a cause that is important to them.”
Crossan has already given some thought to where she would donate her $1,000.
“I think if I were to win, I would give it to the Animal Orphanage in Voorhees,” Crossan said. “My mom is a veterinary technician, and I’ve always been around animals as much as music.”
To vote for Crossan, visit her BroadwayWorld entry here.