Caryn Ott Hillman - COT for Teens, Director at Gallery 37
I don’t know how this happens, but every semester I feel we have THEE BEST TEENS EVER!!! Once again, this new collection of teens from different schools, backgrounds and talent levels come together and create an amazing ensemble.
I was a bit apprehensive about not doing a full show like Guys and Dolls which we did last semester. It’s true, the teens usually like knowing the show in advance so they can dream up which character they want to audition for. However, this semester we chose songs from a wide range of musicals and operas so we could offer more variety of styles, genres, and solos to out teens. This can be a hit or miss because they do not typically recognize the pieces and this can deter some teens from returning or even joining our class. Thankfully, we once again acquired some fun loving, hard working individuals.
We started off with Sondheim’s “Weekend in the Country” from A Little Night Music which is extremely fast and extremely wordy. And like most challenges, the teens love how tricky it is!
Next, we came at them with a surprising twist – “Cell Black Tango” from Chicago. Yes, a risqué dance number to show our audiences that we are not just a stand-and-sing type of group. As you can imagine, they love this number the best. It allows them to be their rebellious selves on stage. I incorporated the Fosse dance style which was a bit strange at first for the teens to grasp but they are now totally owning it!
The Finale to Act One of Into the Woods is the big animated group number that we wanted to show off if we are chosen to perform at the After School Matters’ City Wide performance. Again, Sondheim offers up a mouthful of descriptive words in an up tempo piece that is just so much fun to perform. They learned all the music and choreography in 3 classes! Astounding!!!
This is a diagram of movement formations that the students had to learn in "Into the Woods". The teens love the choreography! (Looks a bit like a football play)
We just recently introduced a beautiful ballad that has become our “anthem” for the semester – “Love me As I Am” from Side Show. This is a musical about Siamese twins that are a part of a circus side show. Along with their other fellow performers, they want to be accepted for their uniqueness, not shunned. Isn’t this true for ALL teenagers?!
And last but not least, “Va Pensiero” from Verdi’s Nabucco. Yep, they are singing in Italian again. How could they not fall in love with the richness and the heart & soul of this piece? Not gonna lie, it is a challenge for them with words they cannot understand and sounds they are not use to making. Never the less, they really get into the musicality of it all.
All in all, these teens are soaking up all this knowledge like sponges! We are only half way through our 10 weeks and we have accomplished so much already. Mr. Richard and I have one more show stopping number to throw at them if they are up for it…