Saturday, July 26, 2008

"West Side Story" Showcases Great Young Talent

Posted by Bruce Miller
My daughter and I went to see SPARC’s production of West Side Story this evening, and were once again blown away by the young talent. Standouts in the large cast include:

Jeanna Daniels who plays Maria, making her SPARC debut. Jeanna is a college student at AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in NYC. She sings like an angel, with one of the clearest and most effortless sopranos I’ve heard in a long time. She's perfect for this role.

Chris Adams who plays Tony, returning to SPARC after playing the title role in Pippin and Munkustrap in Cats. Chris attends college at VCU and J. Sargeant Reynolds, and I continue to be completely impressed by his beautiful voice and charm.

Gianna Barone who plays Anita, returning to SPARC after appearing as Ronette in last summer’s Little Shop of Horrors. Gianna is also a student at VCU, and has the powerhouse voice and great dancing abilities to prove it.

Kate Belleman, playing Margarita, whose face and dancing light up the America number. Kate is a student at UNC-Greensboro and returns to SPARC after 2005’s Pippin (and many previous productions as well).

Christian Griggs-Drane who plays Baby John, making his first appearance with SPARC. Christian, a junior at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, has Baby John’s wide-eyed innocence down just right.

Anna Maples who plays Anybody’s and sings the Somewhere solo. Seriously. Until I read the playbill to write this post, I had NO IDEA that the spunky, fun actress playing Anybody’s was the same magnificent singer who raised the roof with Somewhere. Anna is a junior vocal performance major at VCU, and definitely a talent I need to know.

Calvin McCullough who plays Bernardo in his SPARC debut. Calvin is in the theatre program at VCU, where he appeared in Smokey Joe’s Café and Volume of Smoke. He’s also an alum of Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg.

Robert McKenna who plays Action and is making his SPARC debut. Robert is a musical star at Benedictine High School, with a bright future ahead of him. He’s a believable tough guy who can sing and dance, and they’re hard to find. Trust me. Really hard to find.

Andrew Schappacher who plays Riff and is an outstanding alum of Barksdale’s summer musicals at Steward School. It’s hard to believe that Andrew is only a sophomore at Clover Hill High School. He’s such a talented dancer, constantly improving singer, and committed actor. You can't take your eyes off him. I’ll go see Andrew in anything and consider myself blessed.

Michael Willoughby who plays A-rab and is making his SPARC debut. Like Andrew, Michael has a lot more maturity than one would expect from a high school sophomore. He attends Powhatan H. S., and like Robert McKenna, he’s nailing the talented tough guy thing.

Grace Adams, Jason Campbell, T J Ellis, Michael Hawke, Michael Hoke, Amanda O’Toole, Zack Rogers, Andrea Ross, Liz van’t Riet and Chris Withers are all honored members of the Barksdale and Theatre IV families, and they all do us proud in West Side Story.

The show closes tomorrow, so if you haven’t seen it, please do. West Side is one of the greatest American musicals of all time, and the talented young actors in the SPARC production deserve all our support.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Every year you come see the SPARC summer show and write something complimentary on the Barksdale blog. This means a lot to the high school and college performers, even the ones in the smaller parts who aren't mentioned by name. Thank you for your interest and for taking the time.