One might have thought playing Millie Dillmount in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” last year would have given Cayla Pettinato the right to call herself a tapper.
But the Harrison High School senior, captain of the school’s dance team, says learning the double pull-back — hands out, shuffling both feet back at the same time — for this week’s opening of “42nd Street” has added more than basic tap to her arsenal.
Now she’s a tapper, she says, giving the credit to director-choreographer Deb Toteda, who has been teaching kids to tap — from Rye Neck to Kennedy and beyond — for years.
Pettinato plays “Peggy Sawyer,” the youngster from Allentown who arrives in New York with 17 cents in her purse and ends up in a big splashy musical.
“Peggy wants to be on the stage,” Pettinato says. “It’s where her home is. It’s kind of the same for me.”
The swiftness of a high-school run — months of rehearsals lead to five performances in one weekend and it’s over — has Pettinato looking wistfully at her final high-school-musical opening night.
“By the time we get to spring break, the weekend after the show, everything will be over,” she says, with a trace of wonder in her voice. “I think that last show will be heart-breaking.”
“42nd Street,” 7 p.m. March 22, 23, 25; 2 and 7 p.m. March 24. $10; $5 students, seniors. 914-630-3389.
Photo by Peter D. Kramer/The Journal News: Cayla Pettinato takes a break from rehearsing “42nd Street.”