A milestone wish came true on Broadway when 14-year-old Elijah from Queens, who loves the theater, could not have been happier when his wish to meet the cast and crew of West Side Story became an unforgettable reality. Elijah's dream-come-true marked the 8,000th wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York, an organization that grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
Elijah's day started when a stretch limousine picked him and his family up and brought them to The Palace Theater to see the matinee performance of West Side Story. Elijah is part of the theatre group at his school and loves musicals. His mom claims that he "is a young man with an old man's soul," adding that he's always loved old musicals and old plays, wanting to become a director when he grows up. He's not so much interested in being an actor or on stage - what really tickles his interest is everything that goes on behind the scenes, backstage, how it's all put together and works - that's what he loves.
Aware of his special interests, West Side Story's production company invited Elijah to arrive before the doors even opened - he got to attend crew check first and enjoyed the chance to meet with the stage hands and crew and see what happens backstage before the audience arrives.
Next was the performance -- Elijah and family had center orchestra seats to see one of his favorite musicals. After the show, Elijah and his family were escorted on stage, where the entire cast was waiting to meet him. The Make-A-Wish® volunteer escort wrote, "You should have seen the smile on Elijah's face when the actresses who played Maria [Josefina Scaglione] and Anita [Tony Award Winner Karen Oilvo]stood on either side of him, took photos and gave him great, big hugs. It was priceless!"
The cast had prepared presents for him that included an autographed poster, show memorabilia and a one-of-a-kind West Side Story sweatshirt that they had made especially for Elijah and said "Future Director" on the back! Cast and crew alike made time to explain the process of putting on a show and what goes on behind the scenes.
The exciting surprises kept on coming - Elijah knew that he would finish his wish day with a dinner at the legendary theater hangout Sardi's, but he did not know that he'd be welcomed and treated there like a VIP! A sign welcoming him as the evening's VIP guest awaited him at the entry, "Welcome Elijah!!" was printed on each of the menus the family received and the biggest feat of them all - Matthew Hydzik, who plays the male lead, Tony, joined Elijah and his family for the post-matinee dinner!
"We are so grateful to the cast and crew of West Side Story for their caring and support of Elijah's wish," commented Pat Clemency, President and CEO, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York. "What a wonderful way to celebrate our chapter's 8,000th milestone wish!"
Photo Credit: Alex Z Photography
Elijah enjoys his backstage tour
Elijah in front of theater
Elijah and the cast of West Side Story
Pat Clemency with Elijah and Matthew Hydzik
Elijah and Karen Olivo
Elijah and Matthew Hydzik in front of Sardi's
Elijah and Matthew Hydzik at Sardi's
Elijah and Family with Pat Clemency
BWW Hi-Res Gallery - Original Version