Broadway! Here they come with top hat and all

By Tahnee Hopman, Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Scenes and settings reminiscent of 42nd Street, Manhattan, New York coupled with a group of around 95 committed, talented, musically and theatrically inclined children will take the stage of the Lionel Wendt from September 26-28.

For roughly four months, they have given their time to gruelling yet fun practises, constantly improving and perfecting their individual and group performances.

\ Junior shows invariably attract adoring parents, doting grandmothers, relatives who have various degrees of interest and dutiful friends. “Children, to an unbiased adult audience, may have limited appeal. But what if children are trained over eight months – 80 hours -- to match or exceed the standards of adults,” asks Andre David, the Director of Bustin’ Broadway -- an all-new Broadway musical experience set to take Colombo audiences by storm.

With music overseen by Mary Anne David and son André directing children ranging from 6 to 16 years of age, this has become a reality. The theme, as the name suggests, is “Broadway” and is not diluted with any “incidental” music. So top hat, stick and twinkling toes coupled with singing in harmony will take this show through a quantum leap. To audiences of any age Bustin’ Broadway is going to be a new audio-visual experience.

The tendency is for the audience to turn a blind eye to any mistake or slip in a performance by children. The directors of the Merry An School of Vocal Music take a different approach. “This will not be a run of the mill end of term show, but one of a significantly higher standard,” promises Andre.

The musical’s concept which was developed by Andre himself, deals with a group of children whose perseverance get them into Broadway music.

The junior Merry An Singers promise to take you through a glorious non-stop revue and leave you with “one singular sensation”. For 27 years the Merry An School, from which performers are selected, has unceasingly produced singers who have achieved a great deal as soloists or members of choral groups. The performances are not churned out, but put on stage only after intensive rehearsals for voice, movement and drama.

Each chorister had been auditioned for many roles. Deviating from the norm, the directors have not given confirmation to the performers that they have a solo performance. “We have our soloists, their understudies and understudies to the understudies as well!” smiles Andre. This method, according to him, allows a measure of healthy competition and pressure to be exerted on the children, which enables them to perform better and keep improving in the process. “We usually have the parents and performers know what the line-up is for the concert, but in the case of Bustin’ Broadway we have not done that, to keep the level of interest as high as possible without making it predictable or over-rehearsed,” says Andre.

The children have no doubt been taken through their paces and constantly challenged to do better. “We have, over the years, had the odd complaint from parents on the grounds that they enrol kids in the school so that they can have fun rather than compete with their peers,” says Andre. “We disagree; we feel that kids can have fun even in the midst of challenge and competition.”

Seeing the noisy and exuberant bunch of junior Merry An Singers, it is easy to understand the principles upheld by the school as regards uncompromising quality. While well-disciplined, they were also having a lot of fun with their singing and dancing. In Bustin’ Broadway, they will perform many songs that the audience is in general, not too familiar with, complementing the music with innovative choreography, classy costumes and an unusual set.

Bustin’ Broadway is definitely a performance with a difference. It is a whole new take on an amateur production because, as Andre states, “the children are trained and encouraged to carry off their roles as if they are professionals. It would also be refreshing to see a production in which the kids make the adults look mediocre”.

Tickets priced at Rs. 3,500, Rs. 2,500, Rs. 1,500, Rs. 800, Rs. 650 and Rs. 500 will be available at the Cutting Station, Jawatte.

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