Everyone was on stage for the final song, Shake It Off, at Youth Open Stage: Taylor’s Version at the Gem Theater. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — Basil Lee, 10, of Albany said her sister Cadence helped her choose, “Anti-Hero,” by Taylor Swift when she took the stage to sing at the Gem Theater on Thursday night.

She said Cadence plays karaoke on the TV and they sing every morning while getting ready for school. Open Stage, sponsored by Bethel Area Arts and Music (BAAM), has inspired her, with her mother’s help, to have a karaoke party at home. “We haven’t done it yet, but I really want to,” she said.

As for Taylor Swift, “she’s awesome. Woo-hoo,” said Lee.

BAAM Director Kate Webb reading from a list, calls girls to the stage. Tonight is “Taylor’s Version” and nearly everyone chooses to sing something by the  popular musician. The songs are cued on the sound system and a teleprompter helps them with the lyrics. Some head to the stage on their own, others need moral support, like one girl who sings alone into the microphone, but with a friend on either side.

When a different girl finishes, someone yells, “You slayed that.”

Another is struggling, “You’ve got this Blackly,”  someone coaxes.


The littlest kids don’t sing but run excitedly to the older girls sitting in front, then back to their seats. One wears a tiara and a pink tutu. Another has a faux leopard skin sweater.

When Blackly’s younger sister, Labby Salmons, of Hanover, hits the stage, she brings personality. She is wearing pastel-colored rubber boots and a bright pink bandana over the lower half of her face. Part way through the song she dramatically pulls off the bandana. Her throaty lyrics are a mix Taylor Swift and heavy metal.

Cadence Lee, 12, of Albany, and Isla DeCato, of Bethel, 13, said they know most of the words to most of Taylor Swift’s songs. Between giggles they respond,  “yes,” they sing in the shower and “yes” they sing in the car, too. They have been coming to Open Stage since it began in Sept. of 2021.

Of a boy who came to perform, “it was awkward,” says DeCato.

For the last song everyone takes the stage. No one seems to need the teleprompter for Swift’s 2014, “Shake It Off.”

Heartbreakers gonna break
Fakers gonna fake
I’m just gonna shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off

It is the final song of the night and they know that, as they belt it out in unison.

The next Open Stage at The Gem Theater is Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. with performances at 6 p.m. “Musicals” is the theme and stage presence will be the focus for November.

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