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South Valley Journal

Broad range of talent at Broadway revue

Feb 01, 2018 08:35AM ● By Jet Burnham

Students say the Broadway Revue is their favorite part of their Musical Dance Theater Class. (Chelsea Ottley/Riverton High School)

For two nights in January, the 27 talented members of the audition-only Musical Dance Theater Class at Riverton High School dazzled audiences with scenes from hit musicals like “Wicked,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” “Little Woman” and even “High School Musical.”

The show, students said, made musicals “cool.” The Broadway Revue titled “You Will Be Found” exhibited students’ proficiency in voice, dance and drama skills.

“It really does showcase all the talent in the class because this class has so much talent,” said senior Tanner Sumens.

Dance theater teacher Clin Eaton said there were no “leads” in the show. Every student had opportunities to shine through solos, duos, trios and group numbers.

“We’ve just spread the wealth to give lots of kids the opportunity,” said Eaton.

Sumens said the revue challenged actors to portray a range of different moods through widely varying scenes, all within the span of a two-hour performance. He tapped into various aspects of his personality to portray a flamboyant trendsetter in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and then a passive Russian in a scene from “Chess.” 

Noah Hilker said the song “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen” was a good fit for his voice and range. But the character, a teen with social anxiety disorder, was a very different personality. 

“It’s fun to play that role even if it’s just for a song,” said Hilker, who said it is easier to play a character that is completely opposite of your personality.

Gavin Curtis was excited to be in the scene from, “Dear Evan Hansen,” a show that is fairly new to the stage.

“It clicks really well with teenagers in high school that are dealing with anxiety,” Curtis said. He said Eaton encourages this kind of connection between performers and audience.

Kaitlyn Schreiner said the audience responded well to “Another Day of Sun” from “La La Land.”

“I think that’s just a happy song, and a lot of people can connect with it, so I think it brings us close with our audience,” she said. 

She believes actors can connect with audiences to transport them to another world through the magic of theater.

“This class has taught me how to create the magic for the audience so they are taken out of their busy, crazy daily lives that are just full of heartache, and they can come to a world of farce and comedy and anger and heartbreak,” said Schreiner. “Theater is magic.” 

The magic takes work, said Mariah White, a junior, who has worked hard in the class to expand her singing and acting skills. 

“What I learned from these songs is to use more emotions and use different tactics to convey it to the audience,” White said. She experimented with body posture and facial expressions to bring heartache to her character in a poignant scene from “A Chorus Line.”

McKinley Gunther loves the emotions she expresses through musical theater, something she felt she couldn’t do just in a choir class.

“I want to give people something to feel powerful emotions,” she said. “I’m sharing my emotions, and hopefully I’m spurring some good emotions in others.” 

Gunther used her powerful voice, full of emotion, to stir audience during her solos of “The Sun is Gonna Shine” from “Bright Star” and “Woman” from “The Pirate Queen.”

Because of Eaton’s personal connections, students had the opportunity to work with professional choreographers and directors for the production. Kelly DeHaan, award-winning music director at West Jordan High, provided live piano accompaniment for all 25 numbers of the show, including a song from “October Sky,” which he also sang. Eaton said it is a huge privilege for students to work with DeHaan, who works with such prestigious theaters as Tuacahn and Hale Theater. Eaton also invited BYU choreographer Kori Wakamatsu to work with the students for one number. 

“It’s such a big deal for these high school students to work with a very preeminent choreographer,” said Eaton. “And she does not dumb it down. She pushes them, and they do challenging stuff.”

Students prepared for the show for six months. Hilker said the musical dance theater class is rigorous and demands a lot of time, but they all have a great time performing together.