When Allison Cherry stepped onto the Children's Theatre of Elgin stage in 1992 as a second-grader, she never dreamed that she would one day end up running the show.
But 20 years later, as writer and director of CTE and Fox Valley Theatre Company's annual combined summer show, she is leading a whole new generation of artistic staff, most of whom grew up performing with CTE/FVTC.
Cherry, a 28-year-old teacher at Prairie View Grade School in Burlington, directs CTE/FVTC's "iSing: Sounds of a New Generation," which will be presented Friday through Sunday, June 21 to 23 and June 28 to 30, at the Elgin Community College Arts Center's Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin.
The show features nearly 115 Fox Valley area students performing dozens of pop songs, and it highlights one of the most vocally talented casts CTE/FVTC has ever had.
Performers come from Algonquin, Arlington Heights, Barrington, Campton Hills, Carpentersville, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Geneva, Hampshire, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Pingree Grove, Sleepy Hollow, South Elgin, St. Charles, Streamwood and West Dundee.
Cherry wanted this year's show to reflect the youthfulness of the artistic staff, so she opted to use only current music. Last summer, CTE/FVTC celebrated its silver anniversary with a showcase called "Simply the Best," which featured favorite songs of the group's founders and audiences from the past 25 years.
This year all of the songs were written after the year 2000, and the title "iSing" is a play on Apple's iPod to represent a new generation of music.
"We're entering a new era of directors, choreographers, vocal coaches and cast members," Cherry said. "What better way to kick off a new beginning than with a show of current hits?"
Nearly all of "iSing's" vocal directors and choreographers are CTE/FVTC alumni, and it's also a family affair for Allison Cherry because her father and brothers are working on the show too. Her brother Christopher Cherry, a 31-year-old teacher at Hampshire High School who performed with CTE/FVTC for 13 years, serves as music director and is also vocal director for the group's older students, while her younger brother, Brian Cherry, is designing the show's lighting.
Two other vocal directors, Jonathan Horn and Erin Minogue, are also CTE alumni, and choreographers Andy Bero and Sarah Robertson performed with CTE/FVTC when they were students.
Bero has recently returned to Elgin after a career in professional theater that included two national Broadway touring shows: "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Wonderful Town."
"iSing" is produced by Allison Cherry's father, Greg, who has been a CTE/FVTC board member for 23 years.
"We like to joke that I bring the average age of the staff way up," Greg Cherry said. "It's really fun to see people excel at something they grew up doing as a hobby. One of the comments I've heard from the staff is that now they really appreciate all the work their parents and the artistic staff did to put these shows on in the past."
While CTE/FVTC's summer show always features talented students, "iSing" showcases a collection of the best vocalists CTE/FVTC has ever cast in a single show.
"It was extremely difficult to hand out solos this year due to the overwhelming amount to talent, but that is a fantastic problem to have," Allison Cherry said.
"We are taking the summer show in a new direction, but cast members are enthusiastic because they came in with many of the songs already on their iPods. With the natural talent and added excitement of a new generation music, I know it's going to be a great show."
"iSing" performances are set for 7:30 p.m. June 21, 22, 28 and 29; and 3 p.m. June 23 and 30. Tickets, $10, are available at the ECC box office, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin; building H, Room H143; by calling (847) 622-0300; or online at elgin.edu;.
For details, visit CTE/FVTC's website, www.cteelgin.com;http:// www.cteelgin.com.
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