Home > Past Buzz > Teen Production Lives Up to Show's Title
The students of P.A. the High School for the Performing Arts get a harsh awakening as one of their own leaves the school because he couldn't take the "Hard Work" required to succeed.
"I want to make magic," sang the cast of Fame. So they did. Every word jumped off the page. The teens of this summer's KidzAct production brought the 80s to life on the stage at the Sugden's Blackburn theater and transported the audience, myself included, back to a time of side ponytails, tight pants and leg warmers. Twenty-eight teens presented more than two hours of non-stop movement and energy, and took the spectators along for a ride into the world of P.A., the High School for the Performing Arts in 1980.
The entire cast danced their way through the show with such numbers as There She Goes/ Fame, sung by Marielle Schapiro, who entranced the audience with her portrayal of Carmen, Pray/ Hard Work," and Dancin' on the Sidewalk. The group's choreography fit the era and the company danced well-tight and in sync at all times. Intensity showed in the footwork, the eye-catching jazz hands; the expressions and the level never dropped. Even in quieter, more emotional scenes, where teen productions often lack credibility, Fame kept the audience's attention and made us believe the drama that played out before us.
Actors became characters, people in their own right, before my eyes. I found myself forgetting the people I knew and rooting for the characters. When leads worked as ensemble members they kept in character, avoiding certain teachers, chasing crushes. Even the ensemble members defined individual characters, sticking in conversing groups of two or three.
Several powerful singers took the spotlight, sending the music to the far reaches of the auditorium, despite a few moments when the microphones cut out. Of special note are Sarah and Liz Anderson, playing Ms. Sherman and Angie, respectively, Chelsea Gutierrez, playing Serena, and Alana Neuman, playing Ms. Bell. All sang with power, style and charisma. Naples should hope for more. When three characters from the show formed a band, the actors, Jordan and Dylan Chestnut and Sage Gibbons, performed the music onstage as though they really did belong in a high school of the performing arts.
The technical staff proved their prowess; they were invisible. Only after multiple viewings did I notice the subtleties of the lighting employed: the pinks to complement the love scene, fiery reds clashing with equally vivid oranges during an argument, and lonely blues of goodbye all fading into blackouts, without jarring the mood of the scene. Blackboards and walls fell from the sky to change a set from a hallway to an alley to a classroom. Bells freed students from class and sent them scurrying through the hallways, which themselves were works of art. Platforms built up and around the band, which was phenomenal, served to raise leads above the ensemble or pull company members far enough out of a scene to focus the attention on the center-stage action without distracting the audience.
A word of advice: keep your eyes on Sarah Anderson and Alana Neuman. To find a girl with a voice of gold who can make you forget you've known her since you were twelve, make you forget she's still a high school student, not the veteran teachers she plays, is a rare-enough occurrence. To have the privilege of watching two in the same performance makes magic enough for a whole production. Watch for these two names in lights.
The staff, including director/choreographer Dawn Lebrecht, music director Julie Beardon Shaffer and costume designer Mary Anne McKerrow, has produced another masterpiece of teen theatre. After having watched the production unfold from auditions to cast party, I can only applaud the cast and crew for their commitment and dedication. The nightly rehearsals since June paid off with a magical final product.
When next summer's production rolls around, get tickets early. They sell out fast. For more information regarding KidzAct or the Naples Players call 263-7990 or visit www.naplesplayers.org.
© Naples Sun Times 2006
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