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Final ‘Cinderella’ auditions bring out nerves, talent

Final ‘Cinderella’ auditions bring out nerves, talent

The hopefuls each take a turn in front of the production team, looking to impress them with their talents.


POSTED January 17, 2012 9:18 p.m.

For years Turlock Youth Performing Arts has been showcasing the talents of the area’s youth by bringing a multitude of plays and musicals to the stage. Each production is an undertaking that requires a mountain-sized supply of determination, hard work and patience, as well as a cumulative creative streak about a mile long. Unbeknownst to many, there is an equal amount of drama and theatrics happening behind the scenes as there is on the stage. The Turlock Journal will be following and documenting the course of TYPA’s “Disney’s Cinderella,” from the nerve-racking auditions to the thrill of opening night in April.

 

It’s about 4 p.m. Dec. 10 and the finals auditions for Turlock Youth Performing Art’s staging of “Disney’s Cinderella” concluded a few hours prior and the production team has finalized their callback list. More than 100 kids have tried out for the show and 58 have made it through the first round. The callback list is being typed up and very soon will be posted on TYPA’s Facebook page. And across the city kids are logged onto the page and hitting the refresh button with regular consistency.

Alyssa Sandoval, 8, who left quite an impression on the production team at the first audition with her powerful voice, is second-guessing her performance.

“She thought she did well, but wasn’t sure if it was enough to set her apart from all the other kids,” said Alyssa’s mom Brenda Sandoval. “She was mainly doing it for the experience, but she still wanted to make the show.”

Even with self-doubt nibbling at her, Alyssa anxiously counted down the minutes until the callback list would be posted.

Alyssa as it turned out, had no reason to be apprehensive. She had impressed the production team with not only her singing voice but also with her enthusiasm — an enthusiasm that was currently running rampant in the Sandoval living room. Having seen her name on the callback list Alyssa let out one of those high-pitched squeals that little girls seem to specialize in.

“She was on top of the world,” Brenda Sandoval said. “She started practicing right away.”

At the Cluff household it was mom Jane who was nervously waiting for the list to be posted. Her daughter, Eva Cluff, 10, performed remarkably well during the first round of the auditions, but being this was five days later, she was more interested in playing than waiting in front of the computer. But when Jane Cluff delivered the news to her daughter that she would be moving into the next round, Eva was positively giddy.

“She was really excited that there was a possibility she would be in the show,” said Jane Cluff.

The excitement Eva and Alyssa were experiencing was being shared by 56 other kids who had made it onto the callback list, including 12-year-old Abby Helnore and Abbey Horan, 13, who had each managed to capture the production team’s attention with their voices and stage presence.

But if any of the kids were thinking the hard work part was over they were greatly mistaken. Fifty-eight made it into the next round, but the actual cast was being capped at around 40 and there was only about a dozen speaking roles up for grabs. To make it into the show the kids are going to have to show some of that “pizzazz” director Chris Green is seeking.

Green is attempting to press this message home to the assemblage of kids sitting in front of him.

“If you are in these seats right now, you did a better job than about half the people that auditioned,” Green tells then. “The bad news is 58 people made the callback and we have to cut that down to about 40. Look to your left. Look to your right. Numbers wise one of the three won’t make it.”

The callback auditions are about more than singing and stage presence. The production team is weighing the physical appearance of each hopeful, especially their heights, as they consider casting options. Since the girls outnumber the boys nearly five to one this is an unappealing aspect of the decision making process to the handful of girls who have hit their growth spurts and now tower over most of the boys.

During this audition the hopefuls will be singing again, only this time it will be in front of the entire group, not just the production team. Green will also be calling up people to see how certain pairings work. And, as if the pressure needed to be amped up even further, the auditions are closed to parents.

Just before the auditions get underway choreographer Amber Traini offers them all one last bit of advice.

“This is an audition and attitude counts,” she says. “Give it everything you’ve got.”

One of those taking Traini’s words to heart was Jacob Sylvester, who performed his audition without the slightest bit of nerves showing through and marking him as an early contender for the role of the prince.

Having been arranged and seated by height, petite Eva Cluff is sitting in the last row looking ready and eager for her turn up on the stage. Eva comes to the audition with a secret weapon. Her parents, Jane and Nolan, have performed in community theatre over the years and have sent her off with some words of wisdom.

“We told her musical theatre is all about big and broad gestures, so she shouldn’t be afraid to move around the stage,” Jane Cluff said.

The advice came in handy for Eva, who showed herself to be perfectly at ease moving around the stage as she sang her song.

Alyssa impressed the team with both her voice and her spunky attitude during her first audition and has brought them both in abundance for this round and seems likely to make it into the show.

Less certain are Abbey Horan and Abby Helnore. Both did great renditions of their songs, but their heights have put them on the cusp, depending on who the production team casts as the prince.

“If I’m cast as Cinderella that would be great,” says Abby Helnore during a break in the auditions. “But I just want a part.”

Abbey Horan is equally anxious to land a role, though this is hardly her first show. Her family has been involved with TYPA for several years and she has landed roles in several recently staged shows. She possesses that slightly dark and quirky type of humor that is so well suited for the comedic foils. She’s played the wise-cracking Iago in “Aladdin” and the foolish and mischievous Tweedle Dee in “Alice in Wonderland,” but the lead role has eluded her.

About two hours after the auditions began the production team has heard the last song and seen the last pairing. The kids have all headed home and the production team is huddled around a small table in the shadow of the stage with a long list of names before them and the heavy task of making cuts and assigning roles beckoning.

“This is where it gets really difficult,” Green says. “They all did really well and sang great and I’d love to work with all of them.”

To make their task a bit easier, the team starts with those auditioners that seem naturally suited for certain roles. At the top of their list is Natalie Tout. Her deep singing voice combined with a stage presence that easily commands obedience, she is the perfect fit for the role of the stepmother and the team slots her into the show.

Just as easy to cast was the role of the prince, which went to standout Jacob Sylvester.

“Jacob Sylvester is my prince,” Traini said. “He had a good look and sang really well.”

Giving the prince role to Jacob, who stands about in the middle of the pack in height, eliminates a handful of girls in the running for Cinderella.

Still being considered for the title role are Abbey Horan, Abby Helnore, Jacynda Harp, Haley Brock and Brooklyn Boice. Brooklyn, with her shiny blond locks and sweet voice, seems as if she stepped directly out of the animated version of the fairy tale.

“She came in ready and showed us what she could do,” said production assistant Ethan Hennis. “When she sang, I felt like animals could come in and start doing her chores for her.”

The production team agrees Abbey Horan had the strongest voice of all the auditioners, but are unsure if she’s believable as Cinderella.

“I think she can do it, but it’s not as easy a sell,” Traini said.

After some debate about the remaining contenders, the production team decides to cast Brooklyn in the lead role.

When it’s time to fill the roles of the mice, Eva is the unanimous top pick and lands the role of the loveable Gus.

The team also wants to make sure Alyssa is in the show and casts her as an understudy for the role of Jaq the mouse.

Also landing an understudy role is Abbey Horan for the stepsister Drizella.

“This group is good enough that the understudies could have their own show,” Green said.

The understudies will fill out the ensemble if not needed to take over their assigned roles.

Having cast all the lead roles and the understudies, the production team is looking to fill the last four spots for mice roles and they have 10 girls left. And this sadly is where height becomes a determining factor, cutting the roster by more than half, including Abby Helnore.

“This is where it hurts, because all of these girls could pull off a lead role,” Green said.

The last cuts have been made and the cast list finalized and now the team starts thinking about rehearsals.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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