Meet the talented staff of HCT

Chase Leyner


Chase Leyner founded Hoboken Children’s Theater in 2002. She received her degree at Skidmore College where she studied dance under American Ballet Theatre Star Elizabeth Carroll, danced at New Jersey Ballet, and studied at L’Ecole de Danse de Princes Grace in Monte Carlo. She studied acting with Sandford Meisner, William Alderson, Estelle Parsons and Sam Schact. Credits include stints on All My Children, One Life to Live, As the World Turns and Law and Order. More recently she starred as Mrs. Graham in the short film Pause and as Martha in the short film Martha and Chloe. She was a member of the Phoenix Theater Company and is a proud member of AEA. Chase has directed over 150 productions for HCT!

Scott Pearson

Musical Director

Scott is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association. A native of Pittsburgh, Scott has performed throughout the United States and internationally. He is a graduate of Point Park University’s Conservatory of the Performing Arts and holds a BFA in Musical Theater. Scott is also a classically trained pianist with over 17 years of training. Some favorite credits include: L.M. (Pump Boys and Dinettes), Guido Contini (Nine), Homer Collins (Floyd Collins), Baron Von Gaigern (Grand Hotel, Kennedy Center), Jinx (Forever Plaid), Bartell D’Arcy (The Dead, regional premiere). Scott also tours the world singing the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with The Unexpected Boys, a world-class tribute group. Piano Forte! is the dueling piano act he created with Million Dollar Quartet and Once star David Abeles; it can be seen whenever both of their schedules coincide. Scott is also an accomplished vocal coach who enjoys working with singers of all ages and skill levels.

Caleb Damschroeder

Musical Director

Caleb is a composer/lyricist and a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. He is currently working on a musical adaptation of Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney. As an actor he has been seen in Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, Cinderella, My Fair Lady and Thoroughly Modern Millie. He recently appeared on Broadway in the hit show Cabaret and in Paint Your Wagon at New York City Center Encores!

Jessica Yagoda

Musical Theater & Improv

Jessica Yagoda is a Children’s Theatre Director and Teaching Artist. She founded Page to Stage, a children’s theater program for Niagara Falls youth during her senior year of college. Graduating with a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance from Niagara University in 2016, she brought Creative Drama with Jessica to Central NJ before moving to Hoboken. Jessica was selected to receive a scholarship to be a New York Stage & Film and Vassar College Powerhouse Acting Apprentice in 2014. She also has over 13 years of experience growing up at Victoria Buda’s Academy of Theatrical Arts. Here she wore many hats, including Performer, Intern, Choreographer, Stage Manager, Lighting Designer, Teaching Artist and Assistant Director for countless productions.

Samantha Alicandri

Musical Theater & Voice

Samantha Alicandri is a Hoboken native and New York based actress. A graduate of Western Carolina University BFA Musical Theater program, she has spent the last 9 months traveling across the country (and Canada!) with Theaterworks USA in their musical Rosie Revere Engineer and Friends. She has worked as a director, musical director and choreographer with Riverside Theatre KIDS in Vero Beach, Florida. A proud founding member of HCT’s Senior Company, as well as a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Jessica McCuiston

Musical Theater

Jessica is a musical theater graduate and former faculty member of Bryan College in Tennessee. Her NYC choreography credits include Pace University, The Secret Theatre, and Broadway Bound Kids. Jessica currently works as a teaching artist for Bronx Arts Ensemble and as a director/choreographer for Hoboken Children’s Theater.

Anastasia Beliakova

Musical Theater

Anastasia Beliakova is a Russian born – NYC based actress, puppeteer, and theatre creator. A graduate of the Pace School of Performing Arts Devised Theater Program, she has written/performed original plays and musicals all over the place – including TheatreRow, The PIT, The South Street Seaport Museum, and even Bangkok, Thailand! Anastasia is an alumni of HCT and has taught at the Hoboken Jubilee Center and Step-By-Step Pre-school. Most recently she worked on the development of a puppet/musical adaptation of the Pout-Pout Fish with Acheson-Walsh Studios at TheatreWorksUSA, which is set to premiere at the New Victory Theatre this Fall!

Aidan Davis

Musical Director

Aidan Davis hails from Lewisburg, PA and has been in love with music and performing his entire life. He began his musical journey at an early age with piano lessons, then began studying singing. By his high school graduation, Aidan had performed in competitions, festivals, and venues in 12 different states and 3 countries. Aidan earned a triple B.A. at Indiana Wesleyan in Voice Performance/Music Theory & Composition/Church Music and then his M.M. in Voice Performance/Pedagogy at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Penn State (WE ARE!). As an actor and singer, Aidan has appeared off-Broadway in numerous operatic and musical theater productions including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatSeven Brides for Seven BrothersPirates of PenzanceLes ars florrisonsThe Marriage of Figaro, and The Magic Flute. Aidan has also appeared in commercials/advertising for major brands like Axe and shows like Smash and Royal Pains. Aidan has been teaching private voice lessons for over ten years and enjoys working with students of all ages across multiple singing styles from pop to musical theater to opera. Aidan currently teaches full-time at Northside Charter High School outside Williamsburg, maintains a set of private students who sing on and off Broadway, and serves as musical director for various musical theater non-profit programs, various soloists, and theater companies throughout NYC.

Don Brewer


Don grew up in Michigan and graduated from Western Michigan University with a BFA in Musical Theater Performance. His credits include: Broadway: Les Miserables (original Broadway production), The Pirate Queen (original cast member), Les Miserables (2006 revival production). Broadway National Tours: The Who’s Tommy, The Will Rogers Follies, Les Miserables. Regional Productions: Mamma Mia! (Las Vegas Broadway production), Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (Capital Rep Theatre), The Apple Tree (Goodspeed Opera House), On the Twentieth Century (Goodspeed Opera House). Television: Rescue Me (guest star—FX Network), The Unusuals (guest star—ABC network). Don is a member of the nation’s premiere Four Seasons tribute act, The Unexpected Boys. He is the proud husband of Lisa Capps and the proud father of Georgia.

Tiffany Engen

Choreographer, Dance Teacher

Tiffany recently returned to the city after playing Lauren in the Broadway National Tour of KINKY BOOTS! Before that, she played Regina in the Vegas Company of ROCK OF AGES. She made her Broadway debut in LEGALLY BLONDE and then went on to play Serena in the Broadway National Tour of LEGALLY BLONDE. She plays Noreen (with twin sister, Brooke, as Doreen) in the Hairspray movie. Other credits: world premiere of Surf the musical, Hairspray (Shelley), The Awesome 80’s Prom, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Smash, Raising Hope, Hart of Dixie, Marvel’s Runaways and a recurring role on Nickelodeon’s Naked Brother’s Band. She is also co-creator, writer, and performer at Skits-o-frenicTV.

Joy Smith


Joy Kelly is an actor, director and storyteller. Joy has been involved as a performer in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with Austin Pendleton as Scrooge. She has also performed on several soap operas including “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” and in the independent film “Out of Season.” Joy recently performed in the Faux Real Theatre Company’s “The Bacchae” at New York City’s LaMama Theatre. As a storyteller, Joy has performed in various parks, museums and libraries as well as schools in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Tennessee. She has told stories at the New Jersey Storytelling Festival, The Mohegan Festival, Story Grove at the Clearwater Festival in upstate New York and the Riverway Storytelling Festival in Albany, New York. As a director, Joy directed “Freedom Train” for TheatreworksUSA which tours all over the country. She has also directed various off Broadway productions and readings in and around New York City. Most recently, Joy directed a new play, “Mints,” as part of the Secret Theatre’s One Act Play Contest and it won best play of the festival. Joy also works as a teaching artist in the New York City Schools. Most recently Joy taught a course on Directing at City College in New York City.  She has worked with all ages teaching theatre, music and storytelling.

Rachel Eckerling


Rachel Eckerling is a New York–based freelance theater director focused primarily on developing new work. She worked for several years with Francis Ford Coppola on both theater and film projects. Mr. Coppola commissioned her film adaptation of the best-selling novel, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. Most recently directed: Gustavo Pace’s Naked Brazilian; Andrea Caban’s Questions My Mother Can’t Answer for tour and the soloNOVA Arts Festival, Larry Kunofsky’s The Un-Marrying Project at Paradise Factory, Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl at 3LD Arts and Technology Center; Robin Gelfenbien’s Tour of My Salvation has a First Name — The Wienermobile Journey, and Rachel Evan’s Jew Wish at FringeNYC. Rachel has a BFA from New York University’s, Tisch School of the Arts, where she attended the Playwrights Horizons Theater School. She is also an affiliated artist of New Georges.

Cara Cooper


A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama, Cara recently finished her run on Broadway as Mary Delgado (Frankie Valli’s wife) in the Tony Award winning musical, Jersey Boys. She has also appeared on Broadway in Elf, Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer, All Shook Up, and Urban Cowboy. She has also been seen across the country in the National Tours of Spamalot, 42nd Street, and The Who’s Tommy. She also studied Shakespeare at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts where she played Cordelia in King Lear.