Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Theater feature: Maltz campers to get 'Footloose'

Christina Caperna, Nicky Wood, Jessica Pereira, Lanardo Davis,
Alyssa Berger and Taylor Joseph Rivera in Footloose.

By Jan Engoren

The‭ ‬1984‭ ‬film‭ ‬Footloose,‭ ‬starring Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer,‭ ‬tells the‭ ‬story of a‭ ‬Chicago teenager,‭ ‬Ren McCormack,‭ ‬who moves to a small town where‭ ‬dancing and‭ ‬rock music are banned.

Boosted by a catchy score,‭ ‬it‭ ‬was fairly successful on screen but has found eternal life in its‭ ‬1998‭ ‬adaptation for the‭ ‬musical theatre,‭ ‬becoming one of the most frequently performed‭ ‬of all‭ ‬school musicals.

This Friday and Saturday,‭ ‬the Maltz Jupiter Theatre Conservatory of Performing Arts‭' ‬vacation camps for grades‭ ‬6-12‭ ‬will produce and perform‭ ‬Footloose,‭ ‬under the direction of New York actor Dennis O’Bannion.‭

“This is a great opportunity for local children and teens to have the chance to experience what it's like to work in professional theater and perform on that theater’s stage in a full musical,‭ ‬complete with lighting,‭ ‬sets and more,‭” ‬O’Bannion said.‭ “‬I'm particularly excited to share with the students all of the knowledge I’ve gained from living and working in New York City as a professional performer for the past nine years.‭”

O’Bannion,‭ ‬seen on Broadway in White Christmas at the Marquis Theatre in‭ ‬2009,‭ ‬appeared at the Maltz in March in the musical‭ ‬Crazy for You,‭ ‬after which he was invited by Andrew Kato,‭ ‬the‭ ‬artistic director‭ ‬at the Maltz,‭ ‬to return in June to direct this show.‭

O’Bannion‭ ‬grew up performing in musical theatre at the Children’s Musical Theatre in San Jose,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬and has performed in‭ ‬Footloose himself.

‭“‬This is a great show about youthful energy and standing up for what you believe in,‭” ‬he said.‭ ‬“The kids are so much fun and have so much energy and potential.‭ ‬I hope‭ ‬to inspire them to pursue theater as I have.‭”

With a cast of‭ ‬60‭ ‬students and dozens of musical numbers to choreograph and direct,‭ ‬the job can be daunting.

Dennis O’Bannion puts the Footloose cast through their dance paces.‭

Students rehearsed‭ ‬from‭ ‬9‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬daily for three weeks to learn their choreography,‭ ‬songs,‭ ‬lines and roles.‭ ‬It is an intense program,‭ ‬but one that the students are passionate about.

Lanardo‭ (‬Leo‭) ‬Davis,‭ ‬18,‭ ‬a senior at Royal Palm Beach High School who will attend the New World School of the Arts‭ ‬in Miami this fall,‭ ‬auditioned for and won the role of‭ ‬the‭ ‬Rev.‭ ‬Shaw Moore,‭ ‬who was‭ ‬played by‭ ‬John Lithgow in the film.

Davis,‭ ‬who has studied voice and dance since‭ ‬fifth‭ ‬grade and‭ ‬was‭ ‬classically trained at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach,‭ ‬plans to pursue a career in the theater.

‭“‬My life changed when I joined the conservatory at the Maltz,‭” ‬said Davis,‭ ‬whose favorite musicals include‭ ‬In the Heights,‭ ‬Cats and‭ ‬Beauty and the Beast.‭ “‬I fell in love with musical theatre.‭ ‬I love the songs in‭ ‬'Footloose‭' – ‬the title song,‭ ‬'Footloose,‭' ‬as well as‭ ‬'I Need a Hero' and‭ ‬'Almost Paradise.‭' ”

Not one to sit passively by,‭ ‬Davis watched a DVD of the original film and watched the musical version on YouTube,‭ ‬looking for a role that he wanted.‭

“I asked myself,‭ ‬what role will fit me‭?” ‬he said,‭ “‬and decided to try out for the role of the reverend.‭ ‬I was interested in playing a role with power and authority and the role of the reverend has both.‭”

Jessica Pereira,‭ ‬17,‭ ‬a senior at Wellington Christian School who aspires to be like her‭ ‬idol,‭ ‬Kristen Chenoweth,‭ ‬plays the lead role,‭ ‬Ariel Moore,‭ ‬the reverend’s daughter.‭ ‬Pereira credits musical theater with bringing her out of her shell.

‭“‬I‭ ‬have‭ ‬studied dance with Brian Andrews at Ballet Plus in Lake Worth since I was four years old,‭” ‬Pereira said.‭ “‬I used to be very shy before I discovered singing and dancing.‭”

Pereira comes from a line of dancers.‭ ‬Her maternal grandmother was a dancer and her mother,‭ ‬Kathleen,‭ ‬danced with Ballet Florida in the mid-1980s.

Pereira’s younger sister,‭ ‬Kristina,‭ ‬13,‭ ‬is in the chorus.

‭“‬This is the best show I’ve ever been in,‭” ‬gushed‭ ‬Jessica‭ ‬Pereira,‭ ‬even though she’s been in two shows at the Maltz:‭ ‬Cats,‭ ‬and the‭ ‬Best of Broadway Showcase last December.‭ “‬Dennis is a great choreographer and I’m so thankful to be in the show and so thankful for all my teachers‭ – ‬they are all amazing.‭”

The biggest challenge for Pereira,‭ ‬who is in every scene,‭ ‬is learning all her lines.‭

“The music comes easily,‭” ‬she says,‭ “‬but it’s not easy to memorize all the dialogue.‭ ‬Sometimes my mother helps me in the car on the way to rehearsal and other times I lock myself in my room and try to memorize all the lines.‭ ‬It can be just as hard as schoolwork,‭ ‬but it’s much more fun.‭”

Caiti Marlowe turns‭ ‬15‭ ‬on the last day of the show and‭ ‬has dual roles as Vi‭ (‬played‭ ‬by‭ ‬Dianne Wiest in the movie‭)‬,‭ ‬the reverend‭’‬s wife,‭ ‬and as a mother of a teenager.‭ ‬At the age of‭ ‬9,‭ ‬Marlowe announced to her mother,‭ “‬I want to be an actress.‭”

Her mother,‭ ‬Kit,‭ ‬who was a former catalog model for‭ ‬the long-gone department store,‭ ‬Jordan Marsh,‭ ‬and played an extra in the film‭ ‬Caddyshack,‭ ‬says‭ ‬her daughter‭ “‬has the talent that I never had.‭

“She made tremendous strides in last summer‭’‬s production of‭ '‬High School Musical‭' ‬at the Maltz thanks to the very devoted staff.‭ ‬They love the kids and treat them as professionals and bring out the best in the students,‭”‬ she said.‭ ‬Spending so many hours together,‭ ‬they‭ ‬truly become a family.‭ ‬The faculty is very devoted and nurturing,‭ ‬and teach the kids to be themselves.‭”

While Marlowe admits to not having seen any of the rehearsals,‭ ‬she is looking‭ ‬forward to the opening night Friday.

‭“‬We booked a room at the Jupiter Beach Resort,‭”‬ Marlowe said.‭ “‬We will stay overnight and celebrate Caiti‭’‬s‭ ‬15th birthday and her role in‭ ‬Footloose.‭”

Footloose‭will be performed at‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Friday and Saturday.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$20‭ ‬for adults‭; ‬$15‭ ‬for children.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬561-575-2223‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

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