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Billy Recce of Hauppauge wins Thespian Musicalworks contest

Billy Recce, of Hauppauge, performs in Hauppauge High

Billy Recce, of Hauppauge, performs in Hauppauge High School's fall school production of "The Good Doctor." Credit: Frank Bayer

Like much of the nation, Hauppauge’s Billy Recce was captivated in 2009 by the boy who was believed to be flying over Colorado in a runaway weather balloon.

Recce was only 11 years old at the time, but the story of the Heene family of Fort Collins, Colorado, and the alleged “balloon boy” hoax inspired him.  

“I thought it was funny, but there was also something so human about it,” said Recce, 16.

Recce started writing the first of many drafts of “Balloon Boy: The Musical,” and five years later, his creation is earning national recognition.

The Hauppauge High School junior has been named the winner of Thespian Musicalworks, a national contest hosted by the Educational Theatre Association that invites students to create the opening number of an original musical. Recce did that and more -- sending in the entire book, music and lyrics for his show.

This is the second year the group has held the contest, and Recce is the first New York student to win.

Later this month, he will be heading to Lincoln, Neb. for the 2014 International Thespian Festival, where he will work with theater professionals -- including the director of the touring production of “Wicked” -- to stage the opening number of his musical comedy.

“The idea is to kind of workshop the piece and see how it is up on its feet,” said  Recce’s high school theater teacher Ruthie Pincus.

The number will be presented during the festival, which, she said, attracts thousands of theater students, college recruiters and industry pros from around the country.

“The people watching the festival really have an eye for up-and-coming talent,” she added.

Recce said one of his idols, Mark Shaiman, who co-wrote “Hairspray: The Musical,” is expected to be there.

“I modeled the type of songs I write after his,” Recce said of Shaiman. “They’re funny and very character-driven.”

Looking back on his first draft of “Balloon Boy,” Recce said his musical has evolved as he has grown up. The dialogue, particularly the jokes, have matured, the pop culture references have changed to reflect the times, and the characters have become more three-dimensional, he said.

With some help from his classmates at Hauppauge, he was able to record some of the musical numbers in January 2013, and in December, he decided to submit the show to the MusicalWorks contest.

“There’s a moment when something clicks, it could be just a simple line, and that’s when you have to stop writing and let it go,” he said.

Although the show will probably always be a work in progress, he said, he’s excited to see the opening number, titled “Follow Your Dreams,” brought to life.

He said, “To know that after so many years, what you’ve written, and worked on, and envisioned in your head, is finally getting recognized, it’s a dream come true.”

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