July 27--The halls of Breedlove Auditorium were alive with the sound of music this week as the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith's Academy of the Arts hosted Summer Camp Explozion 2013.
More than 50 students ages 5-14 enrolled in the annual summer camp, excited to bolster their experience in the dramatic arts, and this year more children than ever before will get a chance to be in the spotlight.
In previous years, campers spent the weeklong camp learning one script with just a few lead roles, said Shannon Stoddard, summer camp director, but this year, the students will perform a "Broadway in Review" production, offering leads to many students by incorporating eight different shows in 15 musical numbers.
"It's been actually a lot of fun. We've been able to showcase more children this way so they have individual parts," she said. "They're really excited about it. Everyone has their own little spotlight part somewhere in the show."
The songs all come from musicals the Academy has previously performed, including "The Music Man," "High School Musical," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "The Aristocats," "Alice in Wonderland," "High School Musical 2," "Seussical the Musical" and "Annie."
As the children practiced, the delight of being a lead showed on all their faces as they sprang into action to sing, dance or act out their solos.
Children broke up into small groups based on their musical numbers and ages, and rehearsed in several areas of theater, from improvisation to music, from acting to blocking and choreography.
"We are teaching them a ton of music," said Gini Law, music director. "It is amazing how much they can learn in a five-day period. We have 15 songs, which is a lot to do, but they've taken it and run with it."
In their music sessions, students learn not only the songs themselves, but also about the importance of diction, key, enunciation, volume and harmony, enabling them to sing out like a true chorus.
"They're doing a great job," Law said. "We have fun, but they're also learning a lot about music."
While the 8- to 14-year-old cast of "Annie" learned "Hard-Knock Life" and "Easy Street" in music class, another group practiced their improvisation skills with a revised version of the 1960's television hit, "The Dating Game," called "My New Best Friend."
As the campers gave clues to their best friends' personality traits, ranging from being Michael Jackson to being obsessed with cats, children who were in on the decided traits laughed, cheered and murmured specifications.
"I love everything," squealed Abby Williams, 13. "Improv is my favorite, because it's fun to make up stuff off the top of your head and it's really funny."
Stoddard agreed, laughing along as a child gave clues to his identity as Luke Skywalker.
A third group of children worked on blocking and dance with Jennifer Woodside-Anderson, camp choreographer, who bounded around the stage, singing commands and dragging behind the lines of giggly girls.
"I like working with Miss Jennifer, the dance teacher, because she's awesome and she's hilarious," said ShaLee Jackson, 13. A newcomer to acting, Jackson started six months ago but is already impassioned for the art.
"I think acting is something I really, really want to do for a long time," she said, bouncing on her toes with excitement.
"It's really fun working with the different age groups of kids and pulling out their individual talents into songs that fit them really well," Stoddard said. "They're having a lot of fun with the songs and dances."
"It's been a really, really good group this year. Everyone's participated and seem to be having a good time. We have some really good kids. There's a lot of talent this year," Law said.
The culmination of camp will be today at Xtreme Artz KidFest, where campers will perform their "Broadway In Review" show at 2 p.m. in Breedlove Auditorium.
The performance will be followed by a reception; both the reception and performance are free to attend.
(c)2013 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)
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