FANS AND SOLD OUT WEEKENDS KEEP TEEN SUMMER CAMPS A POPULAR WAY TO BRING
MAINSTREAM MUSICALS TO THEATRE STUDENTS
Youth theatre camps are a highlight during the summer months in most major cities and that includes the Bay Area. There are over ten energetic Stage companies in the Bay that offer tuition based productions at most of the main regional companies - including Contra Costa Community Theatre, HillBarn in San Mateo, A Theatre Near You, Town Hall Theatre, The Berkeley Playhouse and so many more. (I have a list of youth theatre programs at the bottom of this review).
The last weekend of July 2017 means these talented drama/musical camps present their summer musicals. I rarely cover or review teen camps, mainly every student should be able perform on stage talent or no talent. I find it difficult to write, and I am a bit ornery when I see casting that is not diverse. The tuition to these camps keep the urban kids from enrolling; yes all these programs offer scholarships, but they seem to miss the mark in outreaching to talented third world students that will never have an opportunity to perform on stage. With the opportunity to now engage the internet some of these terrific talented youth have scored well on youtube and other new media to get exposure.
Two camps I was pleased to see last month include Stars 2000 based in Pleasant Hill Calif, and STARSTRUCK from Fremont Calif. Both programs staged excellent productions of mainstream musicals, featuring some inspiring local talent. All these theatre youth programs boast about their alumni scoring gigs in professional theatre. Both companies have actors who have gone on to work professionally, and their marketing staff are sure to pitch that as they sell their camps to parents.
FOOTLOOSE is now on stage through August 13th at the Smith Center at Ohlone College Arts Center featuring the STARSTRUCK company. Based on a true story, the 1984 movie Footloose became a cult movie among teens and young twenties, not only because it showcased a rebel with a cause standing up for his rights and displaying victory over misguided-adults, but because of the unforgettable performance of Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormick.
Footloose: The Musical, with music by Tom Snow, with additional songs by Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman and Eric Carmen, and lyrics by Dean Pitchford (except, "Footloose" which was co-written by Pitchford and Kenny Loggins). Directed and Produced by Lori Stoke who been with STARSTRUCK for many years has captured the love and appeal of the story and brought dance back to Bomont.
Director Stoke’s and her team that includes powerhouse music director Nancy Godfrey, and thrilling choreography by Lillian Kautz, bring the best out of their company of over 40 students ranging from 13 - 20 years old. The musical, like the film, follows the move of Ren and his mother Ethel, following their abandonment by his father, from Chicago to the small town of Bomont. His Chicago friends even moan, "Where the hell is Bomont!?". The full company opens with banner number “Footloose” the talented high flying cast includes some excellent first time dancers and, of course, their pros like the Drew Hope, and Josiah Cannon.
Across town in Pleasant Hill Calif, Belle and Gaston are at odds in STARS 2000 shining production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The production features the Academy Award-winning score by Alan Menken, including “Be Our Guest,” and a few songs that weren’t on the original animated feature, such as “Human Again.” Music Director Diane Kamrin and the ten piece orchestra brings out the great power of this score. Polished Director Derek Travis Collard has a double cast to feature more young talent in lead roles. The company of over 45 actors ages 13 to 20 also feature some pros in the cast like the standout Kameron Mahaney, with superb Scottie Tsubota, Ron James and Minseob Yeom who have all been in regional productions and are paid pros.
The BEAST is visiting Diablo Valley College Arts center and is now on stage through August 6th. The big guy wants us to “be his guest”. STARS has a charming production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST that is an enchanted fairytale that has reinvented itself for every generation, going back hundreds of years. BEAUTY features a stunning cast of talented young actors including the accomplished Amanda Neiman and Krya Glass as Belle and the dynamic Christian McCooey and Mark McMillan share the role as the hairy Beast.
Back in Bomont Texas, The dynamic James Logan High Senior dancer singer actor James Misa is cast as the rebel Ren and he is sizzling pro on stage. He sang and danced beautifully and brought significant charm to the leading role of Ren McCormack. He held the story together, along side his understanding mom played by the likable Simi Sen. She helps lead the company in the impressive “On Any Sunday” with Reverend Shaw played by the sharp impressive Nick Jordan Saud. “Heaven Help Me” is the first authentic moment when we see our villain show his soft side. Saud is a likable actor and has a aspiring voice in his first of two solos.
The stylized Ally Abonador makes a flirty and slightly dangerous Ariel, the minister’s daughter. Handsome Misa version of Ren is more down to earth, a kid who is confident and is frustrated by his difficult family life and the lack of freedom in Bomont, where dancing is banned. Misa is also a spellbinding dancer who shows off his steps through out the challenging two hour story.
Over on the Disney stage young Belle heads a diverse cast and is the loveliest woman in a little French village, where she loses herself in literature as the townsfolk smirk. She and her father, Maurice is played by the excellent Ryan Ducker and Ben Lewis, are both odd ducks in this provincial hamlet. The town’s most desired bachelor is Gaston, played by the strong Kamren Mahaney, and Kevin Pack who are both handsome bully oaf’s with all the bad qualities of our own current President.
Mahaney rousing number “Gaston” kicks in high gear under Sheri Stockdale’s wonderful choreography, and the energetic Casey Schneider and Connor Johnson play the sidekick, Lefou, and steals the stage for every one of their entrances. Belle, and her father, Maurice both sing “No Matter What” and Glass and Nieman soar in the song. Belle’s father gets lost in the woods, he is imprisoned by the Beast. When Belle finds him, she offers herself as a trade, which gives the Beast and his family of servants a rare glimmer of hope that they might return to their original states. The Beast’s array of enchanted characters who were once human from Lumiere the candelabra/maitre d' played by Christian Castillo and Alistair White to the housekeeper/teapot Mrs. Potts played by the likeable Hailey Schneider and Kat Butler.
FOOTLOOSE Director Stokes and Choreographer Kautz add an endearing edge to Ren for his song “I Can’t Stand Still;” The shining James Misa continues to show off his impressive dance skills and pitch perfect voice. Chief among Ariel’s and Ren’s sidekicks are the spirited Rusty, played by spitfire Isabel Garcia, and goofy, insecure cowboy Willard, portrayed by a STARSTRUCK favorite, David Kautz. Willard brings the humor to the stage and Kautz is one of the few cast members that is constantly in the Texas mode with his perfect body language, Texas swagger in overalls and boots . Later as his story line progresses Kautz is one of the better dancers of this musical, he is featured in “Let’s Hear It For The Boys” and steals the show in the lively “Mama Says”.
Both student casts pour their hearts and souls to tell these sweeping, touching musicals that both offer a theme of love and celebration. The Disney ensemble all hit the mark with the lively choreography and the steps by pro dancer Minseob Yeom. The STARS2000 company is highlighted in the iconic show stopper production of “Be Our Guest” - by a high kicking, riveting cast of dancers, dressed in vibrant creative costumes of sugar cubes, salt shakers, dishware, utensils, and home furnishings that make up the magical enchanted castle.
Video Clip from FOOTLOOSE
In Bomont Texas the teens assemble to sing the show stopping “I’m Free” featuring the stunning Misa challenging the adults singing “Heaven Help Me” featuring tightly wound Saud and church choir above. Lillian’s choreography is a blast, opening the show with a hip hop feel especially in the big payoff of the title number, when leading man Misa gets to show off his mad dance and jazz move skills. Both Misa and Kautz have the perfect dance timing skills and make a charismatic team on stage.
Other FOOTLOOSE talents to point out include the tall lanky mega villain, Ariel’s home town boyfriend and abuser, Chuck, played by the skilled Manase Misa. James real life brother plays the part well and is easy to hate; he is without a doubt an excellent actor. Also in the mix is the marvelous young dancer Drew Hope as Cowboy Bob, and talented Sierra Bolar who strolls in as the helpful Betty Blast. Other FOOTLOOSE classics including “Somebody’s Eyes” and “Still Rockin” that features Ren and the entire company.
Both companies have fine sets, BEAUTY is rented along with most of the costumes. But the performances are fresh and the bewitched characters in the castle turning from human into pottery touch your heart. The teacup, Chip, played by adorable waifs Rianna Islam and Thomas Moore; the boys have a great time in rented Teacup costumes. Cogsworth, the stressed out windup clock, played by the frisky, sharp local favorite, Scottie tsubota and Logan Rains. Babatte and Madame De La Grande Bouche, two enchanted women in the Beast's castle, are played by the sexy, flirty Kat Bautista, Mikayla Fury, Katie Byrd and Arriana Glenn. The enthusiastic, entertaining, Trevor Gomez and Conor Clancy, is perfect as evil doctor D’Arque that tries to commit Belle's father, Maurice. “Maison Des Lunes” features the three; conniving leads as they plot to win over Belle. Under the music direction of Diane Kamrin; he kept the the skilled young cast upbeat behind his ten piece elegant orchestra.
Back at FOOTLOOSE Ren wants the dance back in Bomont, and he outwits the Reverend to maybe make that happen. That, of course explodes into a wild version of the "Footloose Finale (mega mix)," leaving the audience stomping, clapping, and on its feet as the cast transitioned into a standing curtain call ovation.
Bell and the Beast also make the magic as in all predictable Disney endings. Both outstanding casts bring their sold out weekend audiences to their feet with applause. My guess is that each night these young talented actors bring tears and cheers to these very enthusiastic fans for theatre student productions.
Lafayette high school theatre education at Town Hall Theatre continues with SPAMALOT. Youth Musical Theatre in the Oakland East Bay closed a successful run of MOST HAPPY FELLOW, and CCCT has their final camp performance Aug 4th at Contra Costa Community Theatre in El Cerrito. And my pick for August is Hillbarn Youth program in San Mateo opens their production of THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE August 4th featuring TBA winner for best supporting actor Nicholas J Garland. Most Happy closed 7.30
STARS 2000 Presents
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
By Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Directed by Derek Travis Collard, Music Director Diane Kamrin
Choreographer Sheri Stockdale, Producer Julie Hahn
Must close August 6th
Diablo Valley Performing Arts Center
STARS 2000 Photo’s by Julie Hahn
"STARS 2000 is an audition-based company giving us the opportunity to cast relying on the talent of our actors," she said. "Just as the production staff was considering 'retirement,' our kids urges us to continue STARS on our own. This has been both a challenging and exciting time for us”
For over 25 years, STARS 2000 has been committed to entertaining audiences through their high quality musical productions and outstanding educational training. STARS 2000 is committed to enriching the lives of their students and the community by inspiring a passion and appreciation for the arts and its positive influence through the exposure of live theatre.
A company celebrating our 25th Anniversary as a non-profit organization. We also offer college scholarships to kids pursuing a degree in the theatrical arts. Many of their students as with all the other programs have gone on to Broadway and national tours.
"Here at STARS 2000, the performers take their talents to heart," said former STARS graduate Stephenson, 18, who wants to major in musical theater in college.
Grad quote JANICE DE JESUS | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: January 13, 2015
FOOTLOOSE The Musical
Music by Tom Snow, with Songs by Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman and Eric Carmen, Lyrics Dean Pitchford "Footloose"
co-written by Pitchford and Kenny Loggins
Directed by Lori Stokes, Choreographer Lillian Kautz,
Music Director Nancy Godfrey
Production Manager Anthony Wickizer
Must close August 13th
Smith Center at Ohlone College
STARSTRUCK Photo’s by Mark & Tracy Photography.
StarStruck Theatre is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of youth and our community by providing theatre arts education, performance opportunities, and musical productions of uncompromising quality.
We value artistic expression and social interaction.
We place priority on the highest professional standards in all areas of production.
We provide a positive environment in which young people can learn team work and communication skills and build self-esteem.
Our programs give children of all ages an opportunity to work together and learn from each other.
Teen Conservatory at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting NY
CAMPS FOR TEENS AND COLLEGE
"All these programs offer scholarships, but they seem to miss the mark in outreaching to talented third world students that will never have an opportunity to perform on stage. With the opportunity to now engage the internet some of these terrific talented youth have scored well on Youtube and other new media to get exposure".
You Tube Internet Teen who sings Broadway Hits
18 Year Old talented Jeff Sewell