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Local students to perform at Broadway Palm

By Staff | May 5, 2009

It is an exciting time for the student performers at the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts.
They will perform their spring musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie Junior,” at the school and at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.
“We were in a meeting with Principal Dr. Douglas Santini, who said, ‘How do we go about doing this show at Broadway Palm?'” said director and drama department teacher Alyson Holton.
She called the theater and was able to meet with personnel to explain what they hoped to do.
“We thought being at Broadway Palm would be another different experience, both for the students performing and for parents and family to come and see it,” Holton said.
She said the idea was well received.
“Broadway Palm officials were very generous, stating they supported the arts and asked what they could do to help the students to make this an achievable goal,” Holton said.
She came back to her arts team and talked about the challenges of transporting the show from one place to the other.
“We have a great arts team,” Holton said, adding that it supported the venture.
The result is a special performance to be held at Broadway Palm.
“We were able to get this full dinner service, a buffet and a show, for only $20 an adult and $12 for a student. Normally their prices are higher,” Holton said.
Those involved with the production will only have one rehearsal at Broadway Palm the day of the show, another challenge for the students, but something that will prepare them for the real performing world.
“It’s a very realistic situation for the kids if they do professional theater in the future,” said Holton.
She talked about common Broadway rehearsals that may be held in another area, where performers rehearse in tiny theaters and then only have a few hours to get acclimated to the actual performance stage.
“They will have the school performance under their belt before we go to Broadway Palm,” Holton said.
She added that the students are very excited about performing on a professional stage.
They started working on the production last fall, and had auditions in February.
“We started doing rehearsals the beginning of March,” she said.
The show itself is challenging.
“It’s probably the hardest show in the Junior Series,” Holton said. “‘Junior’ is an operative word here, as it is a special adaptation on the musical specifically written for kids.
“The music is more challenging, they’re tap dancing numbers,” she said. “It’s a very ’42nd Street’ kind of vibe. You have the movement of the flapper and jazz. It’s a very fun, upbeat production.”
There are many memorable song numbers in the show.
They have students from third to eighth grade performing. Auditions included the whole school, and there are 88 performers in the production. It is a full stage with lots of costumes, Holton said.
“We’re definitely having a good time and our costume mistress is working like crazy,” she said.
Marcia Friedman is the costume mistress, who teaches family consumer sciences but also has an advanced costuming class. The students create and sew the costuming.
Other key teachers involved are Linda Sammons, middle school dance teacher and vocal instructor, and director Debbie Trout. Another dance instructor who is key is Annemarie Morin, who is the elementary dance instructor.
Sue Sommers from the computer and business instruction end is handling programs and invitations. Theresa West-Taylo, from the art department, has her stage craft class making the props and more.
Broadway Palm holds 300-plus, and the academy stage holds about 500.
“We’re hoping for capacity,” said Holton.
The two stages are different sizes with different components.
“They will really have to learn how to improvise, which we’ve learned in class, but it is really something you do in life,” she said. “They are learning life lessons.
One of our students is actually performing at Broadway Palm in two of their shows,” Holton added.
Austin Wohlert is currently in Broadway Palm’s productions of “Peter Pan” and “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” Both roles are central characters.
“He’s one of our honor students in class, and he’s doing all of these things,” she said. “He has a great attitude, and is an example of the type of student we have here at the academy.”
It is not only a cross-theater experience, but a cross-school experience. They worked with North Fort Myers High School, who did the production last year, specifically with drama teacher Michele Whitener.
“It’s a fantastic production,” said Santini. “We’re one of the first schools in the country to do this version. Going to Broadway Palm gives the students extra experience rather than just doing it here, so it’s very special this year. I know it’s going to be a great production at both places, and the kids are more excited this year because of that.”
Tickets are now on sale through the school for both performances, which begin at 7 p.m.
The cost of the May 15 school show is $5 for an adult or child. Broadway Palm tickets are $20 for adults, and $12 children 12 and under.
The Broadway Palm show includes dinner, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and dinner from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
For more information or tickets, call 997-2131.