top of page

About Theatre Next Door & Dancelife Academy

Theatre Next Door & Dancelife Academy strives to encourage the performing arts and to foster a spirit of creativity in the life of each student, one that nurtures the ideals of commitment, fun, and expression. As a performing arts and dance education studio, we offer a selection of dance and theatre classes.  We take pride in the encouragement of the "triple-threat" (acting/dancing/singing) so that students can be introduced to and trained in each aspect of the performing arts


Melissa Mooney

Melissa Mooney (Studio Director/Founder) has been in the theatre, dance, and teaching world for many years. She is a graduate of Caldwell College with a BA in English and Education and has her State of NJ certifications in Elementary Education and Middle School Language Arts. Melissa also attended and completed the first year program at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in NYC where she studied the Meisner Technique.  She has been dancing since she was a child, and has been teaching dance and choreographing throughout New Jersey for the past 15 years.  Melissa has performed all around New Jersey in numerous dance shows, competitions, and musical theatre productions. She was a professional actor and dancer at the now closed Evergreen Theatre, with Palame Enterprises Inc.  Melissa has taught at many dance schools and public schools as a director, choreographer, substitute teacher, and teacher of English in East Hanover, Florham Park, Cedar Grove, South Orange, and Orange, and most recently as an Instructional Aide for Special Education in West Orange. Recently, Melissa choreographed and danced in a pre-show production number at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks, and she has worked as the head of the summer performing arts S.T.A.R. camp at Montclair Kimberley Academy.  She recently became the Dance Team Advisor and Coach for the West Essex Middle School Dance Team.  Theatre Next Door & Dancelife Academy and all her choreography work fulfill her dreams and passions. She is mother to Savanna and Braden, wife to Brian, and she is thankful each day for her Mom, Joann, for believing in her and telling her to “always follow her dreams.”

Angelo DeFazio

Angelo De Fazio (Founder) holds a Masters degree in Educational Theatre from New York University and a degree in Theatre Performance and Communication from Seton Hall University, where he is an Adjunct Professor of Communication and The Arts.  He is also an Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, as well as a Theatre Arts curriculum writer for the National 4-H Youth Development Organization.  Angelo is also a State of NJ certified Teacher of Theatre, having taught theatre and musical theatre at both public and private schools, as well as performing arts studios throughout Essex and Morris counties, as well as a State of NJ certified Teacher of English and Speech Arts and Dramatics. Angelo recently taught at The Calais School as a Teacher of Theatre to students with special needs in addition to his roles as Director/Technical Director at Hanover Park High School, Director of Theatre at Memorial Middle School in Cedar Grove, Ridgedale Middle School in Florham Park, Brooklake School in Florham Park, Our Lady of Sorrows School in South Orange, and East Hanover Middle School.  He recently directed Mystery Play at Seton Hall University, A Raisin in the Sun at the Mary Burch Theatre at Essex County College, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown at Montclair State University, and a new play, Day of Awe, at New York University Steinhardt’s Black Box Theatre, as well as Romeo and Juliet, The Pirates of Penzance, Grease, Sister Act, Footloose, The Wizard of Oz, Robin Hood, Guys and Dolls, Once Upon a Mattress, Into the Woods, Peter Pan, The Music Man, The King and I, Oliver, Nephew Fred, Annie, and numerous other children’s theatre productions.  Angelo has also worked as the Producer of Jersey Absurdity, a sketch comedy production group, and as the Drama & Musical Theatre Program Coordinator/Drama & Musical Theatre Instructor for the West Essex YMCA. In addition, he is trained as a Teaching Artist with NJPAC for the Early Learning Through the Arts/NJ Wolf Trap Program, part of the national Wolf Trap organization, as well as in the disciplines of Creative Drama, Acting Technique, and Dramatic Interpretation.  Angelo is also an evaluator for the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards.  He has had the opportunity to portray such iconic characters as The Emcee in Cabaret, Charlie Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Jaques in Shakespeare’sAs You Like It, The Baker in Into the Woods, and Jesus in Godspell. He has worked in the theatre as a stage manager, theatre reviewer, production manager, producer, teaching artist, vocal director, singer, actor, technical director, and director at such organizations as The PlayHouse at East Hanover, Celtic Theatre Company, South Orange Performing Arts Center, Paper Mill Playhouse, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center.


JoAnn Russionello 

JoAnn Russoniello (Founder) has been involved in the theatre for over 20 years, and is a co-founder of The PlayHouse at East Hanover (1998-2006).  Her theatre experience spans numerous years in the capacity of costume design, set design, producing, managing, acting, and directing for The PlayHouse, West Orange Theatre, West Orange High School, Seton Hall University, and Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange.  Her acting credits include Godspell, Truvy Jones in Steel Magnolias, Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Mazeppa in Gypsy, Mrs. Mullin in Carousel, Mrs. Bedwin in Oliver, and Renee in Neil Simon’s female version of The Odd Couple for The Strollers in Maplewood.  Her vocal performances include PNC Bank Arts Center, Montclair Operetta Club, Rascals Comedy Club, Seton Hall Law School, and various senior citizen and civic functions.  JoAnn’s directing credits include The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Godspell, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Annie, Gypsy, Bye Bye Birdie, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, Oliver, and Grease.  JoAnn is a former member of “The Goodfellas,” a local New Jersey cover band which included a performance on “The Intrepid” in New York.  


bottom of page