Promising Next Generation from Class Act Productions

I have been a great admirer of Class Act Productions youth theater programs since discovering them toward the end of the last millennium. Just last week I discovered I could enhance my support by simply registering their name in connection with my Randall’s supermarket shopper’s card. Randall’s will now donate one percent of my purchases to Class Act. It will be a good business investment in an invaluable community resource. And now, at last, I have discovered part of the secret of how Class Act and Director, Keith Brumfield, have consistently presented outstanding musical theater productions for so many years. The secret, it turns out, is a vigorous training program for their youngest participants, all age 16 or younger. That program, and the talent it encourages, was on full display in the recent C.A. musical revue, “On Broadway,” at the Nancy Bock Center for the Performing Arts

With only three weeks of rehearsals, the youngsters involved (Cast I, Cast II, ACT ONE cast, and Musical Theater Class) showed great promise as future stars of Class Act’s full-scale musical productions. Talented pianist, Robert Hunt, and drummer, Stephen Hambright nicely provided the evening’s music. The opening pulsing beat of A Chorus Line’s “I Hope I Get It” took me back to a time years ago when I trained my Brooklyn 6th graders for the same show. I had several young girls in my group who would cry every time we rehearsed the touching “What I Did For Love.” But Class Act’s young Kelley Peters showed fine potential with a strong voice that was unafraid to reach tenderly for the song’s difficult high notes. This segment concluded with the dance line of “One,” featuring cute, Fosse-esque choreography from the full cast, and smooth, rich vocals that were especially well done by the youngest performers.

A “Fiddler on the Roof” segment had a lovely “Matchmaker” from Kelley, Christine Hobbs, and Christine Millet, all in lovely peasant costumes. Hunter Middleton bravely took the stage alone for an amusing “If I Were A Rich Man,” followed by lovely Hannah Smith with a sweet and gentle “Far From the Home I Love.”

From “West Side Story,” Kelley returned with a delightful “I Feel Pretty,” and a glib Jimmy Dolphin delivered the difficult rapid-fire lyric of “Giants in the Sky” from “Into the Woods.” Next were two more shows I had once enjoyed using with students: “Oliver,” and “The King And I.”  The Musical Theater Class sang a sweet “Food Glorious Food” that was clear-voiced, but could have used more volume. Jason Spradley did well with the complex melody of “Where Is Love?” Statuesque Caitlan Pitts projected well and brought a sultry quality to “As Long As He Needs Me,” while Sean Rooney led a spirited group in “Be Back Soon.” Cast II offered a fine “March of the Siamese Children,” and a charming “Getting to Know You.” The latter featured fine solo work from Jessica Peters (Kelley’s cousin), dressed in an elegant, cardinal-red ball gown. And there was more elegance in the exquisite ivory and turquoise gown worn by Roma Patel as she sang a haunting “Hello Young Lovers” that was full of focus and intensity. There was yet another lovely gown for pretty Staci Talamonti as she sang “Something Wonderful.” Concluding the first act, Cast I, in a rainbow of costumes, offered selections from “Godspell.” “Light of the World” had nice choreography and many fine solo moments. Sean Rooney led “Prepare the Way of the Lord,” and Emily Weir had a compelling voice as she led “Day By Day.”

Next, Casts I and II brightly sang the title song from “Oklahoma.” Jessica led a cheerful “Many A New Day,” and a feisty, very animated young actress named Sarah Feye, showed a wonderful sense of movement, gesture, and facial expression while delivering a fun-filled “I Can’t Say No” that was deliciously on key. Let’s hope we see more of her in future productions.

From “South Pacific,” Caitlan and friends had a sassy “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.” Then came a big-voiced surprise in the little package of lovely Georgia Wilkinson. Dressed in a pretty, white chiffon gown, her powerhouse performance of “Beauty and the Beast” showed great talent and potential. Then the “Les Miserables” segment, featuring the Act One chorus, included “At the End of the Day,” and a rousing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Cara Connolly offered a sweet “Castle On A Cloud,” and Staci Talamonti produced yet another exceptional vocal surprise with a powerful, “I Dreamed A Dream.”

The “Music Man” finale included Cast II’s fine rendition of the difficult “Pick-a-Little, Talk-A-Little,” and “Wells Fargo Wagon” numbers. Young Cole Thompson looked very much at home on stage for his enthusiastic “Gary, Indiana.” Jimmy Dolphin led the way as bright red uniforms magically appeared for the Technicolor conclusion of “Seventy-Six Trombones.” A foot-tapping audience was quickly on its feet to send the young performers home with a standing ovation.

(The Villager    11.13.03)

(The Courier    11.16.03)

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About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the Lambs Club, he is also editor of The Lambs' Script. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net.
This entry was posted in The Courier Columns, The Villager Columns, Theater Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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