VERO BEACH – Vero Beach’s youngest stars lit up the stage Saturday at Riverside Children’s Theatre Spring Fiesta. The daylong free event showcases the area’s burgeoning theatrical talent and a wide range of performances and activities designed to entertain audiences of all ages.
Now in its tenth year, the festival is made possible by an endowment from the Wahlstrom and McCabe families to help make theater arts accessible to all children in the community. Members of the Pro-Stage Ensemble, youth age 12 to 15 who study voice, dance and theater at RCT and compete as a troupe, performed various solos and collaborative numbers.
In a day packed with back-to-back performances, Grey Seal Puppets from Charlotte, North Carolina also produced a delightful rendition of the classic fairytale entitled, “Salsa Cinderella,” about a spicy red pepper and her wicked stepsisters, Garlica and Onionana.
“The event has evolved over the years,” said Linda Downey, educational director of the children’s theatre for about 15 years. “We try to highlight the talent right here in our own theatre programs and bring in youth theatre companies from across the south.”
Five members of the theatre’s own troupe floored the audience with a version of “Coffee Break” from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” directed by Kevin Quillinan with dance support from instructor Adam Schnell and voice instruction from Deborah Quillinan, Kevin’s wife.
Their caffeine deprived faces tormented and twisted, performers Alison Leavitt, Lilla Stawara, Taylor Beckmann, Megan Taylor Callahan and Patrick Schlitt danced and sang their way into the audience’s heart.
Another number featured the ensemble performing the island-flavored song, “Kiss the Girl” from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
In recognition of the troupe’s performance level at competitions, such as the one in Atlanta where they placed first this year in vocals, the international publishing house iTheatrics has chosen RCT to develop its most recent junior adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.”
“The company will workshop the play and figure out the glitches using our kids,” explains Downey, who emphasizes the relationship with i-Theatrics, which is the youth education arm of Music Theatre International and is closely aligned with Disney, has been cultivated over time by the consistent level of talent demonstrated by students at RCT.
“It’s just a great opportunity” Downey exclaims.
Next year, the children’s theatre will produce Quillinan’s own modern adaptation of timeless children’s story, called “Rapunzel and Me: The Muzical.”
Upcoming artist in residence at Riverside Theatre, Ken Clifton, composed the music for Quillinan’s production.
“That is one of the advantages of being affiliated with a professional theater,” said Downey. “This year, we’re raising the bar even higher in our dance and theater instruction,” she adds.
Some of the talent that has emerged from RCT: Kelsey Rey, nee Kelsey Laverack, who owned the stage on the new NBC show, “The Voice.”
Another RCT talent who began his career at the tender age of four or five is Kenneth Ferrone. “Now, he’s a producer on Broadway,” said Downey. Other talented alumni include Max “Kick” Emerson, an actor in New York and,” adds Downey, “I believe Marissa Burge is acting in the Chicago area.”
“It’s a good outlet,” said Schlitt, 14, who was introduced to theatre in preschool. “The theatre allows us to express ourselves. No one judges you here.”
Sponsored in part by Legler Orthodontics and Seaside Smiles, Children were also treated to a bounce house, face painting, and hands-on activities.
Other performances staged in both the Anne Morton Theatre and the Richardson Room, the recently added black box theatre, included Mr. Bones Pirate Magic Show, “Back Stage at the Big Top,” and “Rapunzel.”
Like many of the members of the Pro-Stage Ensemble, Leavitt, 13, who performed the solo “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid,” plans to be a camp counselor at RCT this summer. “When people clap for you, it makes you feel good,” she said.
For more information about summer programs at RCT, call (772) 234-8052.