Dan F. Sims in RL Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS The Musical at The Growing Stage

The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theater of New Jersey, located in the Historic Palace Theater in Netcong, will open its 41st season with GOOSEBUMPS by RL Stine: The Phantom of the Auditorium. The show runs October 14-30 with performances Saturdays at 4:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and a special opening performance on Friday, October 14 at 7:30 p.m.

RL Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS: The Phantom of the Auditorium is adapted for the stage with book and lyrics by John Maclay, music and lyrics by Danny Abosch; orchestrations and arrangements by Danny Abosch. This production is directed by Stephen L. Fredericks, Executive Director of TGS, with choreography by Jillian Petrie and musical direction by Laura Petrie.

This musical presents mysterious events that happen in the theater and no one can be sure if it is a simple coincidence or the work of… The Phantom! Brooke and Zeke are excited to star in their school’s next hit musical, The Phantom, until they hear a rumor that the show is doomed. Get ready to get “goosebumps” as the mystery unfolds! This silly and just a little scary musical is based on RL Stine’s popular series.

Broadwayworld interviewed Dan F. Sims who stars as Zeke Matthews in the upcoming show at The Growing Stage.

Dan is excited to play Zeke Matthews in Goosebumps and of course to return to The Growing Stage as the Children’s Theater of NJ appeared last season pinkalicious like Peter and Come on dog come on! as a blue dog. Dan is a New Jersey-based actor, director, and artist teacher as well as the creative production supervisor for Michael Anthony Theatrical in New York. Additionally, he is a member of Pushcart Players, the Emmy-nominated touring ensemble for young audiences that performs shows like “Stone Soup,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “A More Perfect Union,” and “A Season. of Miracles” all year round. Having recently played the role of Gordon in Lease with Centenary Stage Company, some roles close to his heart include Benjamin in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the State Theater, A-Rab (West Side Story), Mendel (Fiddler on the Roof), Finch (Newsies) and many more Plays in the Park productions, as well as Harold Bride (Titanic), Hanschen (Spring Awakening), Earthworm (James and The Giant Peach), Lionel (Fancy Nancy), Emmett U/S (Legally Blonde) and Eddie in the regional premier NJ from Mamma Mia to name a few. He is currently Associate Director and Production Supervisor for MAT’s highly acclaimed series “The Broadway Rewind” at Green Room 42 and Chelsea Table & Stage., having helped mount many cabaret and concert productions such as “Heathers”, “History Has Its Eyes On You”, “Queen of The Night” and “Lights, Camera, Broadway!” Dan studied BFA Musical Theater at Montclair State University and took advantage of every opportunity, from singing Disney hits with the Encore Orchestra of NJ, to directing “The Shape of Things” with Third Revelation Theater Co., and is excited to find out what’s next!

We are impressed that you worked and studied in New Jersey. Why do you think the Garden State is so committed to the arts and has so many opportunities?

Thanks a lot! I thought there were a lot of exciting things going on here in Jersey! Of course, sometimes we can forget how close we are to New York where opportunities are sometimes abundant. After graduating from college, I really found it important to forge my own path and pursue a career in the arts at home. Of course, things were complicated by the pandemic a few years later but I really tried not to let myself be stopped by this passion that I have for the stage as well as for sharing my love of the arts with young audiences. I think one of the reasons we’re so engaged is because of the creative energy we exude from being so close to the city, as well as being a really strong state in terms of arts education and creativity in general. It’s truly inspiring and honestly amazing to see the arts flourish again. Of course, it’s not and hasn’t always been easy, but from Broadway to community and regional theater to The Growing Stage, I think this is the most exciting time right now for artists and the audience!

Have you had any particular mentors in your career?

There were definitely those who left an impression, that’s for sure. Whether it’s teachers, directors, classmates or actors, family or loved ones, there’s always some kind of mentorship that happens when you have a close group of people around of you who love and support you. There have been many teachers in my life who have been kind to me, principals who have given me opportunities, and friends who have given me a shoulder to lean on. Not everyone I’ve met has always been supportive along the way, but I’m grateful for it every step of the way because today I can say I love what I’m doing here. Whether it’s for a moment or for life, for me it’s a really nice feeling, as well as for those who I’m sure have supported me throughout my career and lifted me up. I have a lot of love for each of them!

What have been your most memorable acting experiences?

Playing a blind worm was definitely up there! James and the giant peach is an awesome show. (I really tried to act methodical that one!) Seriously, I really enjoy traveling and talking to the students we play for at various schools with Pushcart Players. Those are some of the most rewarding times for me, seeing what I do and what I love inspiring someone else to love it too. Another reason I love acting is the discovery of finding parts of yourself in every role you play. To be honest, I’ve been lucky enough to work on so many shows and play roles that are close to my heart, in so many different styles and for so many different audiences. There’s still a ton of acting experience I want to have too! It’s been a fun trip so far. Who can say what is the next step? Right now though, I’m having a great time playing Zeke and reminiscing about what it’s like to be a middle school kid again!

What advice do you have for people interested in working in the theater arts?

This is a great question that I still wish I had a better answer to. The advice I would give is to always try to find new opportunities to grow and learn. Everyone is different, but in my own experiences at TGS and elsewhere, I’ve found the most success when I feel like I have the opportunity to learn or gain something as well, to somehow improve. Even if it means being thrown out of your comfort zone in the process. The more tools you have to build your toolbox, the better it is for you and those you work with. And take your time. No matter what kind of involvement you have or want to have in the arts, your creativity matters and it’s not a race to the finish line. For me, it’s about the gift of that precise moment, of being able to create something where nothing was before. Or a Sondheim lyric suggests it!

Tell us a bit about your role in Goose bumps?

Certainly! I play Zeke Matthews on the show. It’s been a really exciting role for me to bring to life! He’s kind of like your quintessential fun-loving theater kid, but with a few corny jokes and a genuine passion for all things scary! (Much like me!) One of the best parts of this role is working so closely with Aycka, our Brooke, and the rest of this superstar cast. Because Zeke and Brooke are best friends on the show, it was great to delve into that bond these two share. I think we can all go back in time and fondly remember our first close childhood friend. With this production, we’re really trying to explore those heartfelt relationships and hone that youthful energy that makes young adult roles so fun. It was so great as an actor to work with actors who love acting, if that makes sense!

Do you enjoy working with The Growing Stage again?

It was really wonderful. This is my third production at TGS since April 2022. I really have a passion for children’s theater and The Growing Stage too. I think that’s where the relationship really thrives. Not only are each member of staff kind, talented and welcoming, but most importantly, they genuinely care about creating quality, professional entertainment for young audiences. Don’t get me wrong, these shows are all family-friendly and there’s something for everyone to love! There’s just that level of craftsmanship and intent that I’ve experienced working here that you don’t always find other places. There is special attention in the product as well as the experience that each young person has when walking through the door. From the beautifully painted murals to the smell of fresh popcorn, the “everyone is family” environment at the Palace is something that keeps people coming back. And of course, there are so few children’s theaters in the country actually dedicated and designed for young people!

What would you like the public to know about the upcoming show?

There’s a lot of talent in this cast of 6 and it’s so rewarding to see everyone making each character their own. We also have a really great and dedicated team, so that surely helps. We laughed a lot and enjoyed the whole rehearsal process. There was a great energy! From day one, it all came together. I also think that something Danny Abosch and John Maclay did so well in writing Goosebumps was to beautifully blend this super exciting world of music, book and lyrics that immediately greets you and sinks into your heart! It’s Goosebumps after all, it’s silly, funny and a bit scary! If you pay attention, I think there are many brilliant ways that this score and these orchestrations complete the storytelling in very cool ways. The music really sets the tone for this iconic RL Stine story. It’s a really fun show! We hope you’ll come to TGS and “follow if you dare”!

Everything else, absolutely everything you want BWW NJ readers to know!

It is more or less that! If you’ve made it this far without looking back in dread, thanks for reading and I hope to see you one evening..at the Palace Theater in Netcong from 14th to 30th October for Goose bumps! Be sure to follow me on Instagram @dfsims and be sure to follow TGS @the growingstage to stay up to date with all the stellar shows they have coming up this season!

You can find Danny on Instagram: @dfsims

The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theater of New Jersey is located at 7 Ledgewood Ave, Netcong, NJ 07857. Ticket prices are $28 for adults, $22 for seniors, and $18 for children. To purchase tickets, go to www.stagedecroissance.com or call (973) 347-4946. Group rates and subscription packages are still available.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Dan F. Sims

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