Young actors, singers and dancers took to the stage Thursday at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas for the high-energy, debut performance of “Fame Jr.”, the center’s summer musical.
The Arts & Science Center’s production featured multi-talented youth from throughout Southeast Arkansas who showcased their amazing vocal talent and many years of acting and dancing experience to bring to life a story of reality, hopes and dreams.
Set during the last years of New York City’s celebrated High School for the Performing Arts on 46th Street (1980-1984), “Fame Jr.”, is the bittersweet but ultimately inspiring story of a diverse group of students as they commit to four years of grueling artistic and academic work. With candor, humor and insight, the show explores the issues that confront many young people today.
Alexis James, whose strong alto voice was displayed in her role as Miss Esther Sherman, made her first appearance on the Arts & Science Center stage.
Alexis said her friend, Monkevis Edwards, who played Tyrone Jackson in the production, was contacted by the musical director, David Fleming, that the center was looking for young singers and actors between the ages of 13-18.
“I barely made the age limit because I’m 18, but I went ahead and tried out because singing and acting are two of my favorite hobbies,” she said.
“It feels great to be a part of this production. Everyone is so loving and so kind. I feel like we’re all one big happy family up there. It’s so fun and exciting every night going on stage and also listening and watching the others blossom on stage.”
Alexis said her participation in the musical is “bittersweet” as this will probably be her only performance on the ASC stage because she will be attending Henderson State University in Arkadelphia in the fall.
“But I hope other children will hear about this play and it will persuade them to want to join the ASC family as well,” she said.
Brigitte Rogers, who is currently the associate professor of dance and director of Hendrix Dance Ensemble at Hendrix College at Conway, served as director of “Fame Jr.” She said she has enjoyed working, creating and laughing alongside all cast, crew and production members in her first opportunity working with the ASC.
Rogers said, “this bittersweet story brings back personal memories for us all when having to decide what to study, where to study, who to befriend and how to pay for it all. The performing arts allow students to experience self-exploration, successes, failures, and through it all — the work, dedication, skill and joyful effort it takes to create using our voices and bodies as the primary instruments,” she said.
Rogers said “the arts bring about an individual self-expression that can’t compare to many other areas no matter the decade, which then turns into a collaboration of many personalities in a short amount of time with little to no funding.”
Other cast members included Trent McKenzie as Nick Piazza; Hailey Conner as Serena Katz; Kamarius Christopher as Joe “Jose” Vegas; Madison Carson as Carmen Diaz; Allison Morrisey as Iris Kelly; Tristen Hall as Mabel Washington; Matt Conner as Schlomo Metzenbaum; Katie Willett as Ms. Greta Bell; Anna Brantley as Ms. Myers; Andrew Fleming as Mr. Sheinkopf; Rachel Lochmann as Grace (Lambchops) Lamb; Mikal Johnson as Goodman (Goody) King; Olivia Gavin, Eboni Edwards and McCallie Hall as Acting Ensemble; Asia Abraham as Music Ensemble; and Catherine Anderson, Gabrielle Vernor and Emily Allen as Dance Ensemble.
The final performance of “Fame Jr.” will be held today at 2 p.m. The production is sponsored by Simmons Bank. For more information about the ASC and upcoming events, call 870-536-3375 or visit the website www.ASC701.org. The center is located at 701 S. Main St.