Take 68 students from 31 New Jersey towns and cities, enroll them in a five-week, performing arts intensive with about a dozen professional teachers and what do you get? When the combination is totaled at NJPAC’s Summer Youth Performance Workshop, the result is one mean talent machine.
Displaying their agility in vocals, modern dance, acting and musical theater, the teens (ages 13-18) staged the annual showcase on Aug. 1, to the applause and woots of family and friends in the Victoria Theater. Finding the winning formula took hours of hard work – training and rehearsals under the mentorship of seasoned performer-instructors to perfect technique and boost self-confidence.
Auditions and aspirations, with a sprinkling of stardom, were among the themes running through this year’s program. Two of American musical theater’s most famous audition numbers – the tap-happy opener to 42nd Street and “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line – were joined by a third, “Climbing Uphill” from The Last Five Years. The musical theater ensemble sang of yearning for a place in the spotlight in “Let Me Be Your Star” from the TV series SMASH and “Girl in the Mirror” from the musical Grand Hotel.
Acting students performed monologues that ranged from comedic to throat-catching, portraying characters of all ages and types, while exemplifying the Workshop’s strong belief in taking artistic risks.
Modern dance students appeared in a series of School Stories vignettes choreographed by Ronnie D. Carney and Roman Cruz, short pieces that depicted a stylized dance class as well as the boredom and excitement of being in high school.
Concluding the program, the entire company gathered for a choral rendering of “I Sing the Body Electric,” with its relevant lyric, “I celebrate the me yet to come.”