By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Rick Hale has performed in high school and community theater productions, where singing the right notes, delivering the proper inflection and hitting your marks are key.
While director Joanna Andrei is pushing her tween- and teen-aged cast to meet those expectations in “A Pocket Full of Rhymes,” that’s really not what the musical review of Mother Goose rhymes is all about, Rick said.
The show – which will be staged July 18 through 20 in the James E. Winner Jr. Arts and Culture Center, Sharon – is aimed at children, which presents certain opportunities for performers they do not have when playing for adults, said Rick, a 17-year-old Sharon High School senior.
“I think I get a lot more space with it,” Rick said of “Rhymes.” “Kids don’t care if your choreography is perfect. They want to have fun.”
The important thing, Andrei and Rick said, is to keep up the energy level of what should be a high-energy show.
“It’s kind of hard,” said performer Olivia Kochunas, 15, of Champion, Ohio, sister to BriAnne Kochunas Samson, who plays Mother Goose, and sister-in-law to Musical Director Nicholas Samson.
“It’s a lot more energy than you would normally use,” Olivia said, comparing “Rhymes” to serious theater. “It’s more fun, though, definitely.”
The show allows her to express her “inner kid,” she said.
The show based on the book of Jim Eiler and music of Jeanne Bargy sets the Mother Goose rhymes, riddles and stories in different cultures – European and Asian – with “Mary Had a Little Lamb” delivered to an Oriental melody, and “There Once Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” set to a Klezmer beat.
The dances include the Charleston, swing, hip-hop, tango and waltz.
Andrei, embarking on her first directing effort after years of choreography, dancing, acting and teaching, said she adapted the script to build a show around the strengths of her performers, whose ages run from 11 to 17.
For example, she added a steel drum interlude to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” because a couple of her performers were capable of playing them.
The show demands much from the performers, who have to sing five-part harmony while dancing, and move on and off stage quickly to change costume accessories and props.
“I see a lot of potential in all of these kids,” Andrei said. “It’s nice to be a part of their growth.”
Likely to be a first theater experience for many of the kids in the audience, “It’s a good introduction” to theater, Andrei said.
Perhaps, it will prompt some kids to sign up for the acting classes that Andrei will offer at ACC in the fall.
Andrei, of Boardman, Ohio, said she appreciates that the ACC’s organizers envision the building as a complete art space, with shows, art exhibitions, classes and studio space.
“I think it’s one of the best things that could be here in the area,” said Rick. “To have this much art injected in our area is a beautiful thing. We need this in our area.”
Show times are 7:30 p.m. each day at the theater at 98 E. State St. Community Library of the Shenango Valley, Sharon, will hold activities for kids starting at 6:30 p.m., and a candy and dessert bar will be open. Tickets and information: 724-983-8222 and www.ACCSharon.com