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Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Fame Jr.’ is a showcase for emerging young talent

Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Fame Jr.’ is a showcase for emerging young talent
Dozens of young thespians have found great fun and excitement during the dog days of summer by singing and dancing their way into Laurel Mill Playhouse’s “Fame Jr.,” based on the full-length stage musical, featuring performers ages 8 to 18 currently playing on Main Street. (Courtesy Photo)

Dozens of young thespians have found fun and excitement during the dog days of summer by singing and dancing their way into Laurel Mill Playhouse’s “Fame Jr.,” an adorable musical featuring performers ages 8 to 18 currently playing on Main Street.

Produced by Maureen Rogers with direction by Michael Hartsfield, musical direction by Mimi McGinniss and choreography by Brook Urquhart, the show caps the little theater’s 2019 Music Theater Intensive (which kicked off in early June) and includes a “Kids’ Cabaret” of popular show tunes, choreographed by Meg Nemeth and Malarie Zeeks, performed as Act 2.

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Filled to the brim on opening night with an audience of thrilled family and friends, the show conjures bright innocence, inspiring fresh hope for the future to audiences of all ages while showcasing some impressive emerging talent.

Eight-year-old Jenna Campbell is making her stage debut as the youngest performer; stage veteran Anthony Alessandrini, 18, is returning to the Laurel Mill Playhouse stage in his last performance with the kids’ summer theater.

Also appearing are: Marleigh Amate, Regina Beach, Laila Brooks, Alexandra Brown, Josephine Coward, Maxwell Coward, Tabitha Dickson, Mark Eaton, Valentina Giuriola, Loraine Hamlett, Maggie Johnson, Max Johnson, Ian Luk, Delaney McGinniss, Gavin Reardon, Carly Pometto, Carly Levender, Samantha Roberts, Victoria Simmons, Yvonna Smack, Kayla Sterling, Zoe Taylor, Aeris Tepper, Kayla Tucker and Allie Wickline.

All outshine the stage lights in fetching costumes assembled by Marge McGugan and cast.

Based on the full-length stage musical conceived from the 1980 film, “Fame," the show skims the ambitions and relationships of students enrolled at a famous New York City performing arts high school.

As the lights rise, the audience meets the “Fame” characters — the student actors, dancers, musicians and teachers — as the ensemble performs musical numbers “Hard Work (Part 1),” “(Part 2)” and “(Part 3)” beautifully.

Alessandrini portrays music teacher Mr. Sheinkopf with a charming German accent. Roberts makes a formidable Miss Sherman, the English teacher; Simmons is sweet and kind as Ms. Myers, and Smack is compassionate as the dance teacher Ms. Bell.

As Nick, Luk brings on tremendous energy; his vocals in “I Want to Make Magic” are strong and clear; Giuriola (as Serena) is steadfast as his acting partner and also performs “Let’s Play A Love Scene” well.

Unlikely friends Carmen (Hamlett) and Schlomo (Reardon) also create sweet moments. Reardon breaks hearts in “Bring on Tomorrow.” And Hamlett’s stage presence and stellar vocals are a standout, especially in “There She Goes!/Fame” (seriously, remember this young actress’s name).

Eaton is a riot as the wisecracking wannabe-Romeo, Jose; Coward rocks playing Tyrone, an inspired dancer with attitude and a secret; and Pometto dances and acts beautifully as Iris, who is also not what she seems.

Levender is adorable as the overweight Mabel (although the actress isn’t), but she does a wonderful job, especially in her fun and comedic performance of “Mabel’s Prayer.”

Some of the cast members will step up to play larger roles as the run continues; “Fame’s” pop culture offers excellent material for all members of the large cast to shine.

After a brief intermission, the cast performs nine lively, eclectic show tunes with contagious joy; “Fame Jr.” and the “Kids’ Cabaret” at Laurel Mill Playhouse will delight and lift the spirits of anyone who loves performance art and the beauty of youth.

“Fame Jr.” and “Kids’ Cabaret” continues through Aug. 18 at Laurel Mill Playhouse, 508 Main St., for Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinee performances at 2 p.m. General admission is $22; active duty military, students (12 and under) and seniors (65 and older) pay $17. For tickets, go to laurelmillplayhouse.org.

Loraine Hamlett, as Carmen, sings during Laurel Mill Playhouse’s “Fame Jr.” with the cast surrounding her.
Loraine Hamlett, as Carmen, sings during Laurel Mill Playhouse’s “Fame Jr.” with the cast surrounding her. (Courtesy Photo)
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