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Broadway and Beyond: Rosie's Theater Kids joyfully reunite in person for the first time in 2 years

Students with Rosie's Theater Kids return to in-person rehearsals 02:11

NEW YORK -- For two years, the pandemic splintered a group of young performers, so instead of being together in rehearsal halls and on stage, they had to meet online. 

But now, the bright young stars of Rosie's Theater Kids are back as they joyfully return to what they love best.

The energic young New Yorkers, including 14-year-old Renzo Ruiz, are breaking free of their boxes.

"It's really liberating, and it feels, like, freeing," Renzo told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

Distant no more, they are guided by choreographer Fredrick Earl Mosley. 

"When they get that standing ovation, when their mom is crying and their dad's over there rocking in the seats, they earned it. I'm really happy for them," he said.

"So I use all that energy that was kind of trapped during the pandemic to finally let it out and use it for this piece," said 18-year-old student Lizbeth Luciano, from Inwood.

She's spent six years In this program. Started by and named after Rosie O'Donnell, it takes about 150 students from all over the city and gives them free arts training. The nonprofit started back in 2003.

In less than a week is the organization's annual gala, "Passing It On: An Evening of Mentorship."

"To see them all up there together again ... It's going to be unreal," said Lisa Danser, associate artistic director for Rosie's Theater Kids.

Being honored this year is George Cheeks, president and CEO of CBS, described as a lifelong fan and friend of live theater.

"He grew up in the theater, and so we were really excited to honor to him. He came and he met with the kids and talked to them about leadership and skills," said Lori Klinger, executive and artistic director for the organization.

Broadway producers Cathy and Elliot Masie are also honorees. 

"Their ideas for moving forward in theater and with equity in theater ... It's very impressive," Klinger said.

At Rosie's Theater Kids, the message is rehearsing for life -- not just arts instruction but life skills.

"I used to be very shy, but when I joined Rosie's Theater Kids ... It's improved me with, like, making friends, with making connections to people," Renzo said.

They will be together again and back on stage Monday, April 25, at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.

The organization's school is located on West 45th Street in Hell's Kitchen.

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