This year's recipient, of the Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship is Brandon Russo, a senior at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, NY. It will be awarded to him on Stage at Westchester Broadway Theatre on Thursday, March 31, 2011.
Brandon Russo is the consummate professional on the stage and off. He has a great appetite for character roles and devours them with great zeal. From his work as the timorous Billy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" to the creepy Sydney in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival production of "Curtains" to the dashing Mr. Baker in "My Sister Eileen" to the jovial gangster in "Drowsy Chaperone" and now as the buffoon LeFou in Stepinac's upcoming production of "Beauty and the Beast" .
It is obvious Brandon is able to extend himself and not be confined to any one type of role. His willingness to keep challenging himself and take on roles that are not seemingly a natural fit for his innocent nature is praiseworthy. Brandon never seeks the easy way out. He makes a full investment and it pays off in dividends! Above all, off the stage Brandon is a true gentleman who is sensitive to the needs of others and always places the entire production's needs above his own. Cast and crew find him not only charming but also humble and clearly dedicated to his craft and our club much like Bob Fitzsimmons himself. Bob always led with his heart and I can assure you that Brandon does the very same. It is this rare combination of heart, humor and honesty that make him an audience and cast favorite.
The Scholarship is given annually to a college-bound senior who has excelled in the theatre arts programs while attending Stepinac High School. The prestigious Arts Scholarship is named after Bob Fitzsimmons, a graduate of Stepinac High School, who died suddenly at the age of 37 in March of 1992. He was the Public Relations Director of the Westchester Broadway Theatre, as well as a gifted actor, producer, writer and a director of shows at WBT and at numerous theatres throughout the County.
The scholarship was established in his name by the owners of Westchester Broadway Theatre, Bill Stutler and Bob Funking, the entire employee staff of WBT, and the many friends and relatives of Bob Fitzsimmons. Under the auspices of WBT, Allan Gruet, (former WBT Public Relations Director, who replaced Bobby Fitzsimmons) and George Puello spearheaded two fundraisers. The first & most successful fundraiser was held at WBT, the second was held at Stepinac High School. Mr. Puello was responsible for directing & producing the entertainment portion of the events, while Mr. Gruet handled the ticketing for the fundraisers & the continuing administration of the self-sustaining scholarship. Over the years, along with the assistance of producer Bob Funking, Allan has continued to manage the scholarship, making it possible to present the award consistently each year. In recent years, Frank Portanova,Vice Principal of Stepinac High School, has been extremely helpful and cooperative, making some financial donations to the fund to help ensure the life of the scholarship. He also is responsible for selecting the student winner for this highly competitive award. Since it's inception, $20,000.00 in scholarships have been awarded. Unfortunately, due to the current financial climate, the Scholarship is no longer self-sustaining and monies need to be raised to ensure the continuation of this award. The annual scholarship in Bob's name is our collective way of keeping alive the memory of our dear friend, Bobby Fitzsimmons.