by Lynn Mills

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Sherman Oaks Sun JUNE 30-July 6,2006 VOL. 3 NO. 22

Millikan students play Broadway L.A. at Pantages Theater

BY LYNN MILLS

They’ve given up pool parties, baseball playoff games, and hours of sleep — but for the fourteen Millikan Middle School and Performing Arts Magnet students appearing in the children’s choir of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (playing at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater through July 2), the sacrifices are worth it.

“It’s fun,” says sixth grader Victoria Schniedewind, “but it’s hard work.” Classmate Georgia Huston dittos Schniedewind’s sentiments, adding, “but it’s really rewarding.”

Starring Patrick Cassidy in the title role, the Pantages cast is the touring company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lively musical depicting the Biblical story of Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, who incurs the wrath of his eleven envious brothers.

Although the company has been performing around the country for nearly a year, the Millikan kids are a new addition to the Los Angeles production. Fortunately, the middle school students found the seasoned performers supportive when they suffered opening night jitters.

“We were all freaking out in the wings, and Patrick and Amy Adams (the Narrator) and all those people were really calm,” says Schniedewind. “They were like, yeah, you’re going to have a great time,” recalls Huston.

“So far, I’ve had a lot of fun,” says seventh grader Maddie Dugan.“Patrick Cassidy and all the rest of the people who play the brothers, they’re so nice to us. One of the brothers, Benjamin, his real name is Derek, always high fives us after the show is done or in between acts. They’re just good people.” Cassidy’s two sons, Cole and Jack, are the only non-Millikan children in the chorus.

When Joseph goes on tour, it’s up to the local presenter (in this case, the Pantages Theater) to find a choir or conduct a choir challenge among schools, churches, community or show choirs.

Sherman Oaks resident Lorraine O’Brien, head of Center Stage Advertising (advertisers for the Pantages) suggested Millikan’s Performing Arts Magnet from Sherman Oaks. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for these kids; it’s priceless,” she says.

The children’s choir is a major component of production, and are onstage the entire show — singing, dancing and commenting on the story with reactions and expressions like a classic Greek chorus. Training the students falls into the hands of Bill Newberry, the children’s choir director and veteran of seven Joseph tours. “We get everything from ‘Stepford Children,’ that are so perfect, to kids who have absolutely no experience,” explains Newberry, who then gushes, “The kids here in L.A. are great!”

Millikan’s Performing Arts students take dance in lieu of P.E., singing or drama as an elective, and put on plays throughout the school year. But for most of them, this is the biggest stage they’ve ever played. Their rehearsal time for the show was limited with only a couple days spent rehearsing with Millikan’s singing teacher, Leo Krubsack, and three days of practice with Newberry.

“These kids worked like horses all weekend, and we were ready for opening night, so that’s a testament to them,” says Newberry, a father of two and a one time music and literature teacher. “L.A.’s going to be one of our best groups… they really are.” More kudos — the students also received a favorable mention in the Los Angeles Times review.

Dreams and having faith in oneself are recurring themes throughout Joseph, and for the Millikan students who have dreamed of performing in a
Broadway show, that message especially hits home.