Monday, September 6, 2010

New Orleans kids serious about musical theater

“Let’s go ahead and work on the cane pass without the mirror – that’s going to be a little tricky,” said Kelly Fouchi, coaching 11 aspiring, young dancers during a recent rehearsal of “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

“Open and cross, open and cross,” directed Fouchi, choreographer, producer and owner of Encore Dance Studio in Metairie. “This is a great exercise in focus,” she told kids practicing the routine while workmen built the set.

Dancers went through their paces in the opening act’s dance number, “Joseph’s Dream,” shimmying, shaking, jerking, swaying, clapping and finally snapping into final pose as they flashed the peace sign.

In preparation for four performances at St. Martin’s Solomon Theatre in Metairie, 39 children, ages 7-13, rehearsed intense, six-hour weekdays for three weeks during Encore Dance Studio’s Summer Musical Theatre Camp.

Though many of the kids are quite young, with varying levels of experience, several are already disciplined performers, dedicated to training for futures in musical theater, routinely taking voice and dance lessons while auditioning for shows across the New Orleans area.

All who enrolled in the camp were accepted, but a few were selected through auditions to play the leads. Three girls recently had the top role in local productions of “Annie.”

Juliet Archer, 11, who played the Biblical character Joseph, has already been in plenty of shows, including “Schoolhouse Rock” mounted by Lusher Charter School where she is a member of the Drama Troupe.

In order be to play a male role convincingly, she has been closely observing her friend Miles, who played the Egyptian Pharaoh.

During one performance, Jacob failed to bring out Joseph’s multi-colored coat because it been misplaced. So, Juliet ad-libbed, donning an imaginary coat, temporarily suspending the audience’s reality.

They’re learning discipline, focus and stage presence, in addition to the dance routines, according to Fouchi.

Riley Tafaro, one of the narrators, has been in several other shows, including “Annie,” and takes dance lessons in musical theater, ballet, jazz, tap and lyrical at Encore. Despite all that training, she still felt challenged having to sing and dance at the same time. “Everyone was moving all the way through,” said Arlene Tafaro, Riley’s mother. “The screenplay is all music – everything that is spoken is sung,” Tafaro said.

Madeleine Bourgeois, 10, one of the four narrators, has performed in seven shows, including three with Jefferson Performing Arts Center. “I want to be on Broadway when I grow up,” she confidently proclaimed.

“I always wanted to see the show on Broadway and now I’m in it, so it’s cool,” she beamed. Madeleine loves dancing and learned new movements with different styles, including disco, country and Elvis.

“These young performers had the opportunity to perform for 250-275 audience members at each performance,” Fouchi said.

There were plenty of tears closing night because the cast didn’t want the show to end. Madeleine and the other kids also made a lot of new friends during rehearsals and are now planning sleepovers together.

“I think this show was the funnest I’ve been in,” Madeleine said.

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