Achieving a Broadway dream, area native performs in ‘Finding Neverland’
When Lori Nocito of Exeter recently attended the Broadway show “Finding Neverland” with her mother and sister, she sat down, opened the playbill and watched a piece of loose paper flutter out.
Normally, she said, she’d be disappointed to read an understudy was replacing a cast member.
But when she recognized the name of the Shavertown native who would be dancing the roles of Wendy and a maid in that performance, Nocito was thrilled.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, there’s Jaime Verazin,” Nocito said. “I was never so excited to get that white piece of paper, to see someone from our area was doing so well.”
Verazin likewise is excited to be part of “Finding Neverland,” and became emotional during a telephone interview as she talked about reaching her long-cherished dream to dance on Broadway, just as she reached her 30th birthday in March.
“I used to work at Broadway Dreams. It was my first job when I was 15,” she said, recalling a Kingston store that sold dance supplies. “Now I’m really here. I can’t believe it. I’m getting teary-eyed.”
“Here I am and I’m very grateful,” she said. “But nothing about it was easy.”
“Finding Neverland,” which previewed on March 15 and officially opened April 15 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, depicts author J.M. Barrie’s friendship with a widow who is not in the best of health, and with her children who inspire him to write “Peter Pan.”
“The material is really heart-felt and pretty somber,” Verazin said. “It’s about family and finding the child that’s inside of you screaming to get out. It’s about knowing what love is and that it has no boundaries and gives you wings.”
Verazin serves as assistant choreographer to Mia Michaels, whom she praises for such innovative strategies as “strapping ropes to a bench to make it look like a torture device, to give us a little bit of a nightmare.”
That particular scene may have taken a dark route, but the show offers many laughs as well, Verazin said. “All the comedy and quirks and the joy around us puts us in a pretty good place.”
As an artist, Verazin finds herself in a pretty busy place.
“I was first hired as a ‘swing’ for the show last June in the Boston run,” she said, describing a position in which an understudy masters several roles. “I became dance captain a few short days later and a week later I became assistant choreographer because someone quit.”
Coming into the Broadway round, Verazin again wears all those hats.
“I cover six physical women’s tracks but as a dance captain I have to know the whole show and as assistant choreographer I have to know the whole show, from the children to Kelsey Grammer (who plays Captain Hook.) So my responsibility has not stopped with six women’s roles.”
If one person is filling in for another, Verazin has to show that person what to do. Often, she steps into the role herself. Or into two roles.
She’s played the crocodile, an Indian, and portrayed the ‘ice cream man’ as an ‘ice cream lady.’ If necessary, she’s prepared to perform as Peter Pan.
“I had to learn how to not feel overwhelmed,” Verazin said, explaining as many as five out of 28 cast members might miss a performance. “It’s almost like cramming for a test. I have to focus on the next thing I’m going to do.
The daughter of Dr. Gary and Betsy Verazin of Shavertown, Verazin graduated from the former Bishop O’Reilly High School in Kingston and studied at DeSales University before leaving to accept a position with the MOMIX modern dance company.
In recent years local audiences have watched her perform at the Fine Arts Fiesta on Public Square, with Gina Malsky’s Dance Theatre of Wilkes-Barre and at the F.M. Kirby Center with the Mark Stuart Dance Co.
In 2013 a national audience saw her group, Catapault Entertainment, reach the semifinals of “America’s Got Talent.”