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Ossining Student Star on Stage and on the Field

OSSINING, N.Y. – He’ll laugh if you compare him to Zac Efron, but Derek Badger’s story of becoming the male lead in Ossining High School ’s production of “Aida” shares a lot in common with Efron’s role in “High School Musical.”

The show’s director, Jessica Beattie, happened to catch Derek, an 18-year-old senior, during one of the school’s musical competitions and approached him on auditioning for “Aida,” which opens Thursday at Ossining High School. There were a couple of small problems – Derek is also a starter on Ossining’s varsity baseball team and the season started at the same time as rehearsals. Secondly, Derek had never acted in a show before.

“I heard Derek sing and thought he’d be perfect for the show and he said he wanted to so we asked (Ossining Athletic Director James) Dennett and he was super-supportive of the whole idea,” Beattie said.

With Derek’s only previous stage experience coming in a bit part in a third-grade play, there were nerves on both sides as to whether Derek could pull off a demanding role. Beattie said Derek quickly put all doubts aside and became “a show-stopper.”

“We’re so lucky to have him because he adds a different energy and flavor to the production,” Beattie said. “He’s very smart and talented and was really able to take on this leadership role.”

Derek said he’s gotten jokes from both musical theatre people on playing sports and from his baseball teammates on being in a school musical.

“They've called me Zac Efron a couple of times but I think it’s funny,” Derek said, adding that he found a lot of unexpected similarities between sports and acting. “It’s really under-rated the amount of work people do in drama. This is my first musical, so I really went in blind. It’s just like a sport with how much you have to put into it but you get something much different out of it. It’s really amazing.”

Derek said he has had to miss several practices with the baseball team and sometimes misses being out on the field.

“It hurts a little knowing my team is out there and I'm not and I do miss playing,” he said. “But I have a new family here and it's filling a hole in my heart. Baseball has been a part of my whole life but it's time for something new and this is a lot of fun.”

Co-star Mykaela Copeland, 17, said she’s been “incredibly impressed” with how quickly Derek picked up acting.

“He’s done a really great job,” Mykaela said. “He’s got a great voice and he’s been really great to work with.”

Mykaela, who has the lead role in “Aida,” is no stranger to balancing sports and theater. She’s been the star of several Ossining shows, including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Les Miserables” but she’s also played soccer for competitive leagues in the area.

“I definitely get the difficulty in trying to do both at the same time,” she said. “I think he’s going to be really great in this show.”

“Aida,” a show written by Elton John and Tim Rice and inspired by the Italian Opera of the same name, kicks off with an open dress rehearsal at 4 p.m. Wednesday, followed by performances at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, residents are asked to visit the Ossining Union Free School District’s Cultural Arts webpage.

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