The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts was honored to invite, UMASS Amherst freshman, Julio Varella to a sold-out performance of the Broadway smash hit musical, Beetlejuice. Following the performance Varella, along with his parents and friends, got an exclusive backstage tour with visits from crew and cast members including Beetlejuice himself, Broadway’s Justin Collette.
Varella is a recipient of a wish granted by Make-a-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island currently studying technical theatre at UMASS Amherst. This fall, The Grafton News along with Telegram & Gazette shared the story of Varella’s wish for college tuition assistance, which was granted in large part due to the generosity of Bill Murphy, a Grafton resident, mortgage business-owner and author. Murphy is also on the board for Make-A-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
A Westborough High School graduate also involved with the Skyrise Theater, Varella was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 16. He spent a significant amount of time with his father, Rodrigo, traveling to appointments at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Jimmy Fund Clinic.
Throughout this stressful time in the teen’s life, Varella’s passion for theatre deepened. In October, Varella shared with Telegram & Gazette reporter Jeff A. Chamer:
I like listening to people’s stories … because, in a way, we all create stories of our experiences. It’s a very good coping mechanism for dealing with trauma… We’re all pretty much storytellers in that sense and I feel like I sort of have good stories to tell as well.Julio Varella
When Varella’s oncologist suggested he reach out to Make-A-Wish®, seeing a Broadway show and going on a tour backstage was at the top of his list. Due to remaining pandemic restrictions, the organization could not officially grant this wish.
However, after granting Varella’s wish for college tuition assistance, Make-A-Wish® went a step further to connect the teen with one of New England’s largest theatrical venues, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.
When The Hanover Theatre received a call from Make-A-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island sharing Julio Varella’s story, theatre staff member Betty Blute, donor & corporate relations manager, took the reigns and was eager to make his dream a reality. Following phone calls and email threads, The Hanover Theatre’s production manager, Chadyn Case, and Beetlejuice company manager, Joel T. Herbst, agreed to a tour backstage and it did not disappoint.
Julio Varella attended the popular performance of Beetlejuice accompanied by his father Rodrigo, mother Ana and high school friends, Ryan Wickline and Ana Claudia da Silva. At intermission he was already grinning ear to ear, sharing that Beetlejuice was “one of the best things I’ve ever seen, especially from a technical standpoint.” The experience continued to exceed their expectations following the performance.
Once backstage the group saw everything from wigs, set pieces, jumbo projection screens, cast, crew members and, of course, the iconic sandworm puppet! They also had the opportunity to talk with Case and Herbst, previously mentioned, along with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 96 vice president, Mark Dionis, who has had a long history behind the scenes at The Hanover Theatre dating back to performances with celebrities such as B.B. King. Dionis showed off the backstage portion of the theatre’s wall with the artist’s signature.
In a video shared on The Hanover Theatre’s Instagram account, Varella said of the experience “Thank you so much to The Hanover Theatre for having me. It was great to meet everyone and see the backstage. One day I hope to be working at a theatre like this.”
The Hanover Theatre shared grateful sentiments on social media to Make-a-Wish® for the introduction to Julio Varella and his wonderful group. Many organizations came together to give them an unforgettable memory.