Delaware Today magazine Arts & Entertainment Feature: Community theater, The Brandywiners

How This Spring of Love Resembleth

Now in its 80th season, The Brandywiners, known mostly for its lush outdoor musicals at Longwood Gardens, is one of the largest nonprofit theater groups in Delaware.

Baritone Jeffrey Santoro, who recently finished a production of “Kiss Me, Kate” and last year played Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls,” is a marketing director at Nemours Health System. He’s a busy guy and community theater gets him away from his desk.

“For me, working with other theater lovers is an incredible bonding experience,” says Santoro. “It’s like going to a football game with other football fans—it’s the same camaraderie. And doing something so totally different from what I do at work really breaks up life’s monotony.”

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Santoro, who is also enjoying his 34th year as an actor and director at the Delaware Children’s Theater, has dazzled as the razzle-dazzle lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago” for the Wilmington Drama League.

Jeffrey loves the singing roles, but after all, “Chicago” is a big dance show. So can he dance? “Um, not really,” he says.

“Not only does working with the Brandywiners give me a great opportunity to perform in an amazing setting,” says Santoro, “but all the ticket money goes back to other arts organizations. That’s a unique model. It makes you feel good to be performing and giving back.”

The show must go on, no matter what dramas loom backstage. Santoro recalls a production in which a group of performers were portraying the cogs and wheels of a machine. The leading lady hurt her knee, falling backward, then causing a domino effect with the actors.

Nobody was seriously injured. The makeup person grabbed the script and went on for the leading lady. “She was terrific,” Santoro says. “That’s the kind of thing that makes community theater so rewarding.”

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