Just about every professional theater company in the country has an educational program aimed at young artists, says Nicole Capri, the director of education at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. But few, if any, put those young people on their main stage as the Rep will do for 10 performances beginning Friday.
In “Sing, Dance, Repeat!” an original musical production written and directed by Capri, some 70 young folk, ages 10 to 23, will sing, dance and act their way through a musical history of the 20th century. The show, which will feature video montages and period costumes and dancing, will begin with the Wright brothers and culminate with 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and more uplifting moments of recent days.
Nostalgia is a key element in the production, thanks to standards such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” the song that inspired Capri to create the work, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “Feelin' Groovy” and “The Hammer Dance.” (Don't worry. Capri knows that “The Hammer Dance” wouldn't be “The Hammer Dance” without parachute-y Hammer pants.)
Preparation for the production began last summer at the Rep's two-week Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, whose participants are selected by audition. More than 400 tried out in the summer for the 70 slots. The young artists come from Central Arkansas and beyond. Twenty-six schools across the state are represented with students from all kinds of backgrounds. A third of the students are on either full or partial scholarships, Capri says.
Some Capri recruited herself. At a talent contest at Central High, she saw several crump dancers (a kind of spastic, almost violent type of dance) and convinced them to take part in the program.
Like most productions with large casts, everyone spends time in the chorus, but, Capri says, “Everyone has their Kodak moment,” too.
The show “features some of the most amazing young performers you'll ever see,” the Rep's producing artistic director, Bob Hupp, says. “People come thinking this is a kids' show,” Capri adds, “but leave with their jaws on the ground.” Capri is willing to put her money where her mouth is: “If you don't like the show, I'll give you your money back,” she says.
If this year's Summer Intensive performance is anything like last year's, the show will sell out early, the Rep's Beth Porter says. “Sing, Dance, Repeat!” will run March 14-22. Curtain times are 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday. A public sneak preview performance will be given Thursday, March 13. The March 14 performance includes a post-show reception with the cast in the lobby. Tickets are $15 and available by calling the Rep box office, 378-0405, or via www.therep.org.