Bringing back the Hardware

Linda and Larry Schexnaydre, owners of Center Stage Stars Company stand with their awards and two national titles earned from Access Broadway Cup Series in Orlando, Fla. earlier this month.

The Center Stage Stars Company, of Gonzales, had been working since January on its performances, costumes and stage props for a trip to Orlando, Fla. After the work and preparation, the time had come for the long drive to Orlando to compete in the five-day Access Broadway Cup series. After a couple of days of competing had passed, the Gonzales talent seemed to be out of contention at winning any major title. Center Stage even trailed going into the very last day. Well, it’s safe to say the best was saved for last as Center Stage’s big groups performance took the stage with success.

“This is what we’re the best at,” Larry Schexnaydre said, Co-owner of Center Stage. “When they started handing out awards on the last day it was just Center Stage, over and over. After a while we thought, we might have a chance. But even right before they announced I still didn’t think the chance was that good.”

And then, the announcer said for the first time in the 17-year history of the Access Broadway Cup Series one team will take home both the “Broadway Cup” and the “Las Vegas Cup”  - Center Stage.

“That was really nice,” Schexnaydre said. “It was really nice because we know what the kids did, the parents know, but this gave the kids a chance to celebrate and it was the accumulation of a year long of hard work.”

Center Stage Stars Company had multiple winners in the varied categories and also won both the “Broadway Cup” and the “Las Vegas Cup:” the awards go to the best performing arts program and top dance studio.

It was the second time the group won a national title at Access Broadway, picking up the Broadway Cup four years ago.

Schexnaydre and his wife, co-owner Linda Schexnaydre, said the group performed well on stage and equally as well off the stage. The Gonzales talent brought nearly 350 people, with about 150 talents competing in solo, duet, small group and large group categories.

The competition brought 19 companies from across the United States, and one in Canada with almost 800 acts total.

However, Larry and Linda said Gonzales represented best, even before winning it all.

The Schexnaydres said Center Stage was constantly being recognized for not only winning with talent, but also winning with class.

“We clapped for other teams and congratulated other teams,” Larry said. “Our kids understand sportsmanship and that’s not something that happens everywhere. It’s one thing to win but when you win with class just makes it that much better.”

Center Stage developed its own local talent from the parish; it didn’t have to recruit it from other areas. Linda said so many kids come and don’t know exactly if they can sing, dance, or act.

“We have some incredible talent in this area, we see it and it’s not all about the sports,” Linda said. “It helps them become more well-rounded human beings. We’ve had kids go on to Broadway, and acting, but we’ve also had kids go on to be doctors, lawyers and teachers.”

Larry said he grew up in a sports family, where his dad and brother were football coaches. He played football and basketball all of his life, but he did performing arts too.

“A lot of times parents say either this or that, and that’s not true,” Larry said. “So many of the skills I learned in sports - being coordinated, doing the drills - I picked up choreography very fast and they asked how long I danced. But it was because I was an athlete I could do certain things.”

“The lessons I learned in sports - team work, hard work, discipline - I certainly learned in performing arts,” Larry said. “Probably the better thing I learned in performing arts is that I didn’t get hurt or hit by 300-pound guys.”

Center Stage won’t defend its two titles next year because they won’t attend nationals, and the Schexnaydres are okay with that.

“Maybe in another four or five years we go back and make it a three-for-three because nobody has ever done that either,” Larry said.