Rep's summer program turns out pros 

'Review the Revue' continues at The Rep.

The artists of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's Summer Musical Theater Intensive, ages 10 to 23, don't expect you to understand. They know that you think that "young artists" is a euphemism for "kids who sing and dance" with the emphasis on "kids." They know you expect their annual performance on The Rep's main stage to be a glorified school musical, something charmingly raw at best. They know all this, and they relish it.

"I like proving adults wrong," said Taylor Quick, 16, a junior at Little Rock Christian, a week before SMTI's "Review the Revue" debuted March 2 at The Rep. "It's the best feeling."

"I feel like they doubt our capability," added Mary Katelin Ward, 16, a junior at North Little Rock West High School, inspiring murmurs of affirmation from cast mates.

"I have to explain to family or friends who come for the first time, 'This is a bigger deal than it seems,' " said Stephanie Holiman, 16, a Central High junior. "Afterwards, they're always like, 'Are you kidding me, kids can do that?' "

At the preview performance of "Review the Revue," among the things these 65 kids could do that others probably cannot: Breathe life into "Brown-Eyed Girl" and barbershop quartets with sweet, pure vocal harmonies (that one member of the quartet has perfect pitch didn't hurt). Credibly pay tribute to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller," perhaps the most theatrical pop songs of the last 30 years, without devolving into parody. And, above all, execute steps and notes and blocking near flawlessly while still exuding personality. The kids and teen-agers and young adults that make up the production all retain their youth — they're sometimes goofy and sometimes awkward — while still hitting their marks. There are no stage automatons among this group.

"The program's taken off," Nicole Capri, director of SMTI and resident director and director of education at The Rep, said before the preview. "Because motivated kids really like to be thrown a challenge. They're on fire to see if they can pull it off."

"Review the Revue," as the title suggests, looks back at the highlights of the program's five years of performances. At its most basic level, it's a story of SMTI's quick success. The first auditions for the summer training program drew 150 kids. This year's brought out around 500, out of which roughly 80 were selected. The first year, the program's two divisions — ages 10 to 15 and ages 16 to 23 — staged spare versions of "Schoolhouse Rock" and "Godspell," respectively. Now, as it has been since year two, SMTI is on the main stage with perhaps The Rep's most elaborately costumed production.

Last year, SMTI polled the audience on its favorite numbers from past productions, which after the first year have taken on a theme, such as holiday traditions, Hollywood's love affair with Broadway and history through the lens of music. All the productions, therefore, have felt like jukebox musicals of musical and theatrical history, none more so than this year's greatest hits collection, which mashes together everything from "Annie Get Your Gun" to "South Pacific" to "Chicago" to "Wicked" to Leiber and Stoller's "I'm a Woman" to MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This."

Between the song and dance numbers in "Review the Revue," a handful of the young performers deliver monologues that look back at their time in the program. In the first act, Mary Katelin Moore, one of the few performers who's been in SMTI since it began, told the audience she recently learned that she's set a record for performing in more shows at The Rep than anyone else under the age of 20.

"I have the best support system that anyone in this business could ever hope to have," she said. "I love this stage. I've mopped this stage. I've bled on this stage. And I've sung my heart out on this stage. It's a part of me."

Capri talks often about how close-knit the actors are and how important it is for SMTI to provide a safe environment in which kids can thrive. But, ultimately, she said, the primary focus is building talent.

"First and foremost, our goal has to be that we want to create a training program where kids are going off to college or out into the professional world to people who're asking, 'What's in the water in Little Rock, Arkansas?' "

After just five years, Capri's alumni include a member of the Joffrey Ballet in New York who recently danced the lead in "The Nutcracker," an actress who recently toured with a national production of "Annie," an "American Idol" contestant who made it to Hollywood week, and a number of actors and vocalists in college programs across the country. Moreover, Capri said SMTI is influencing the types of shows The Rep decides to stage. "A Christmas Story" was filled with SMTI kids. The cast of "Hairspray," which debuts at The Rep on April 8, is full of SMTI members and alumni.

Caroline McCormick, a 17-year-old senior at Mount Saint Mary Academy and another five-year vet of SMTI, ascribes the program's success to the demands it puts on young performers.

"We're not just a bunch of kids who're coming here because we have nothing else to do. We're treated like equity actors. We have to be here on time. We have to remember our choreography. That's why we're able to make that transition. When we get out in the professional world, we know what's expected of us."

For those interested in being a part of the program, auditions are coming up April 1-2 at Wildwood Park for the Arts (The Rep will be undergoing renovations), with callbacks on April 3. Call 378-0405 or e-mail nleopoulos@therep.org to make an appointment.

Tuition to the program is $400 with a $15 costume fee. Scholarships are available. Capri said SMTI has never turned away a kid because he or she couldn't afford it. In fact, in five years, the program has given away over $35,000 in scholarships.

Capri said the next production is going to be about the '80s. "We could call it something like, "We Weren't Born Yet," she joked.

"Review the Revue" continues at The Rep with performances at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday.


From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Summer Musical Theater Intensive


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
    • Jul 18, 2017
  • The Power Ultra Fallout Edition

    The Power Ultra Lounge shooting and related political fallout, Secretary of State Mark Martin and Trump’s election integrity commission and former circuit judge Mike Maggio — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Jul 7, 2017
  • The Asa's Health Care Pitch Edition

    Governor Hutchinson’s critique of the Senate health care bill, the erection and destruction of the 10 Commandments monument, the U.S. Supreme Court and birth certificates for same-sex married couples and the appointment of Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland to U.S. Attorney — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Jun 30, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Big ideas for Arkansas 2015

    Readers and experts suggest ways to change Arkansas for the better.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • 2016 Best of Arkansas editors' picks

    A few of our favorite things.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • A week at Midtown

    Can a dive bar be reborn?
  • Plan for the homeless echoes Gillam Park history

    It's a dumping ground, again.
  • Repulsed

    Regardless of the spectrum of your religious beliefs or lack of, does alluding to any religious icon or symbol of any religion [when writing of] the joys of double-finger penetration inspire any of your readers to any form of greatness?

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation