‘Broadway Lights’ gives student performers one night to shine

by Josh Whitener

Rising stars from Matthews Playhouse’s Theatre for Young People are preparing to serve up a dish of talent and entertainment with the one-performance show, “Broadway Lights.”

The show takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, and tickets are $10. The revenue from ticket sales will benefit the nonprofit playhouse, which offers community members of all ages the opportunity to learn about and experience performing arts through theater.

“Broadway Lights” is a musical revue that features songs and medleys from more than 20 different Broadway shows, both past and present. The show also is the culmination of Matthews Playhouse’s Pre-Professional Workshop, a theater-intensive summer camp specifically designed for students who are “triple threats” – gifted in the areas of singing, dancing and acting – and serious about pursuing a career in musical theater.

Nearly 50 students age 11 and older will take part in this week-long program, working with some of the most experienced and highly esteemed theater professionals (choreographers, musicians, acting coaches and agents) in the region. For five days, they will experience the ins and outs of the musical theater world, from auditions and rehearsals to presenting an actual performance, which they will do at the end of the week with “Broadway Lights.”

Ron Chisholm, who recently directed the musical comedy “Nunsense” at the Playhouse, was chosen to lead the Pre-Professional Workshop and direct “Broadway Lights.” Chisholm said the workshop’s end-of-week performance was designed as a revue rather than a single show to give the students a chance to experience different genres of musical theater.

“With their schedules, they might be able to do one or two (shows) a year, but this allows them the opportunity to be exposed to the many styles of musical theater and theater,” Chisholm said. “It showcases their strong points and what they need to work toward.”

Having the students perform a variety of styles will not only help them find their niche; it also helps them prepare for auditions, Chisholm said.

“Some of them discover they want to go on to Broadway, some discover they want to go to the cabaret world,” he said. “There are different varieties of entertainment that are used and when you go to an audition, you should have at least three different styles of song to fit the show.”

“Broadway Lights” will feature songs from shows like “Shrek,” “Grease,” “Annie” and other Broadway favorites. A three-piece orchestra will provide live accompaniment during the show.

“It gives the kids the opportunity to have some flexibility and develop their characters,” Chisholm said of the live orchestra.

Because the workshop only gives students one week to prepare for the performance, “Broadway Lights” won’t focus too heavily on costumes.

“It’s more about the performance piece as opposed to the costume aspect of it, and it’s difficult in one week to fit the kids (for different costumes),” Chisholm said.

As this is the first time Matthews Playhouse has ever hosted a workshop like this, Chisholm is hoping for a smooth week and great turnout for the performance and expects the best from the students who will participate.

And what can theater-lovers in the community expect?

“They’ll be very surprised at the level of presentation that these kids will be at by the time the week’s over,” Chisholm said. “It’ll be unlike anything they’ve probably ever seen.”

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