A little taste of Broadway
That is to say, their favorite dance number is “You’ve Got Trouble,” one of the many classic songs found in the repertoire for “The Music Man.” “Music Man Jr.” is a version of the play adapted especially for a younger cast. Members of the Vail Performing Arts Academy (VPAA) will perform the musical at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.
The performances cap off a month-long series of intensive work on the part of the kids. They’ve studied acting, dancing and singing, and they’re ready to strut their stuff. Annah began the VPAA seven years ago.
“I did it because I saw such a need for some type of opportunity for kids to get involved in the arts beyond what they’re getting in school,” she explained.
Her program teaches the four c’s: communication, cooperation, confidence and creativity.
“Beyond that we’re teaching life skills,” she added. “When you can overcome inhibitions to address problems, you can approach life in new ways. So we’re not just creating Broadway stars.”
Though they may create a few along the way. There are 50 local kids involved in the program ranging in age from elementary to high school. The story of “Music Man” revolves around a con artist in the turn of the century in a small town in Iowa. The rather charismatic crook galvanizes the stodgy, entertainment-starved town with the idea of a kids’ band, though in reality it’s merely a plan to net him a profit. But he is given the opportunity to mend his wicked ways when he falls in love, and not with a blonde bombshell either. The love-conquers-evil message and the all-American score (“76 Trombones,” “‘Til There Was You”) have made this one of the most-produced musicals on Broadway. The original Broadway cast won a Grammy for the album.
In addition to Annah’s performing experience, the cast has benefited from Beth Swearingen’s past life as a Broadway regular.
“She’s been in “Cats’ and “Chorus Line,'” said Annah. “She brings all that with her to direct these productions and takes the kids to levels I don’t think anyone would ever imagine. Some are experienced, others are very new to it. She creates a performance that is beyond everything a kids’ performance would normally be.”
Swearingen’s assistant, Jen Reid, has been teaching the kids all sorts of hip-hop and jazzy moves. According to Annah, the boys love it as much as the girls do. They’ve been known to stay after rehearsal just to keep dancing. Prisoners these kids are not.
Each child has a specific character they’re performing, whether they have a speaking role or are in the chorus. The entire cast is involved in all musical numbers, packing the theater with oodles of sound.
“It’s just amazing,” said cast member Anthony Scully. “It started out that everyone was crazy, but now it’s coming together. It’s a strong group of people.”
Anthony is the music man. He’s been in several plays and has recorded a handful of programs for Channel 5. He hopes to make the switch from stage to silver screen, but says there’s nothing like being directly in front of the audience.
“One take – that’s all you get,” he said. “It gets your energy up.”
In addition to an energetic cast and crew, the word on the street is they have some intricate costumes, too. Emily Sack has created all the costumes, and she gave reign to her imagination with the hats.
“We’ve got hats with feathers and chickens and roses and lace – these are works of art,” said Annah. “They should be hung in a museum.”
The VPAA isn’t just a summer workshop. It’s expanded to include programs throughout the year. Early this summer, Annah brought to Vail 15 leads from “The Lion King” production in Denver. They gave a demonstration for local kids. Annah hopes to do more of that.
Tickets for the show are $11. Performance times are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek. For more information or to buy tickets call 845-TIXS.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.