Valdosta Daily Times


February 10, 2013

Hooray for Hollywood

Presenter Series brings the movies to life this week

VALDOSTA — Speaking in a phone interview last week, dancers Lenny Vasile and Jamie Baptist and singer Jessica Lee Coffman were eager to hit the road with the show, “Hooray for Hollywood.”

They had just completed a whirlwind eight days of rehearsal in Myrtle Beach, S.C., learning the words, rhythms, steps and costume changes for 30 songs from a variety of movies — not just the expected Hollywood musicals but songs from comedies like “The Blues Brothers” and thrillers such as James Bond’s “Goldfinger.”

They were scheduled to step on the bus this past Thursday and play their first show that same night. So, this coming Thursday, when they step off that bus and walk into Valdosta’s Mathis City Auditorium for the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts Presenter Series’ production of “Hooray for Hollywood,” Vasile, Baptist and Coffman should still have the same enthusiasm with the experience of a week’s worth of performances.

These three performers are part of a cast of eight professional dancers and four professional singers.

Vasile, 23, has performed in “Hooray for Hollywood” in two previous productions, when it was a Myrtle Beach-venue house show. He has also performed in “Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline,” “Rock Around the Clock,” and has worked as a dancer at numerous American theme parks.

“Hooray for Hollywood” is Baptist’s first national tour — the show will be on the road for six weeks, visiting 16 states. She has toured professionally with various shows, appeared on the TLC television show “The Cake Boss,” etc.

It is also Coffman’s first road tour. She has worked professionally in productions of “Aladdin,” “Hairspray,” but she has also served as the dance captain aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship.

The Presenter Series organizers describe “Hooray for Hollywood”: “Take a nostalgic journey through the most popular musicals of the last 50 years, featuring a cast of wonderful singers and dancers, a six-piece band and over 300 costume changes! Enjoy film clips of your favorite movies ...”

Vasile says this show contains segments from past “Hooray” productions but also capitalizes on movie musicals as recent as the Oscar-nominated “Les Miserables.”

“The coolest thing about this show is it’s not just the standard revue of Broadway and Hollywood musicals,” Vasile says, “but celebrates movies that include singing and dancing.”

Vasile, Baptist and their fellow dancers are on stage almost constantly during this show. In addition to dancing, they provide back-up vocals for the featured singers.

For Baptist, learning the songs posed no worries. She went into the audition already knowing the songs as well as the “Hooray for Hollywood” show.

“This show presents some of the most iconic moments from movie musicals and other movies,” Baptist says. “I’ve been singing to them all of my life. These are the types of songs you aspire to perform.”

As an audience member, she had also seen one of the Myrtle Beach “Hooray for Hollywood” performances. “I left the theatre thinking, ‘I want a chance to do this show.’”

When that chance came, Baptist arrived at the auditions and won a dance spot for the tour.

In addition to dancing and singing, she and the other dancers have had to rehearse becoming quick-change artists. Given the show is dedicated to numerous films and genres, they also must be ready to change costumes quickly, at each new venue, with help from new local costume assistants at each stop.

In many cases, songs are presented in segments, so the dancers don’t have to change costumes between each song.

As a featured singer, Coffman alternates songs with the other female singer. She often has an entire song to change costumes, though there are instances in the show when she must move from one song to the next.

As a singer, this show allows her to play iconic actresses and characters from movies. In one segment, she sings a Judy Garland song then sings an Aretha Franklin song, for example.

The challenge in any type of theatrical revue show is finding the balance between re-creating the original character and the performer while still being true to yourself, Coffman says, especially in a show that runs the gamut of movies from the 1940s to ones that can still be seen in theatres today.

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