Theater Review: Broadway Bound spectacular

Friend Bill Beard called last week to invite us to the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center for a special performance by a collection of amazingly talented teen-agers. The Mendelssohn-sponsored group develops their drama, singing and dancing skills under the direction of Jack Armstrong, who has worked with the group for four years and accompanies the singers. Bill Beard directs, and Jennifer Edwards Gerczak choreographs. Rehearsing over a period of several months, the showcase is the perfect venue for the culmination of their work.

The range of musicals spans nearly 50 years. Bye Bye Birdie opens the show with “The Telephone Hour.” Cleverly staged with cell phones, it updates the teen talk of the ’50s. Lesser-known productions were The Apple Tree and the long-running Fantasticks. The full-company numbers from Cabaret and Les Miserables brought shouts of appreciation from the audience.

Paul Steffan, a sixth grader at Keith School and a member of Kantorei, is the perfect Charlie Brown, and Sophia Araoz almost brings tears in “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera. Araoz’s later rendition of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar is equally emotional.

Stephanie Whitmire, Amanda White, Erin Edwards, Brian Patterson and Scott Dibler’s “Seasons of Love” from the modern adaptation of Rent gave the performers a chance to explore the problems of society today. Tim Myers’ solo from Jekyll and Hyde stood out. A conversation with a mirror image of his other self made “Confrontation” a demanding piece.

Dance is showcased in “Waltz for Eva and Che” from Evita. Erica Figurin and Tim Myers do a very creditable tango, and the finale with Evita almost prone is exceptionally well done. Having seen an earlier performance of this group, their development astounds. The addition of several young men to the cast strengthens and gives depth. Months of work and only one performance seems disappointing, but the future may bring “a run.”

From the May 24-30, 2006, issue

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