Anthem tales

I met a 12-year-old named Sarah Miller, and her mother Ruth, during intermission for Tuesday night’s performance of “Mamma Mia!” at ASU Gammage

I was delighted to learn that Sarah has performed in several community theater productions in Anthem, where she lives and plans to attend The Caepe School come fall.

I spoke with Sarah by phone Wednesday evening, after she’d finished a dance class with Dynamic Motion Dance Academy in Anthem — where she studies jazz, musical theater and tap. She’s also trained in ballet and hip hop.

I spotted Sarah in the huge “Mamma Mia!” crowd thanks to her powder blue t-shirt with a large “Mamma Mia!” logo. Although Sarah told me she loves the show, she was most eager to talk about her hometown theaters — Starlight Community Theater and Musical Theatre of Anthem.

Sarah has performed in several Starlight Community Theater productions — including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella,” plus her very favorite piece of musical theater — “Annie.” Sarah’s last “Starlight” role was “Tweedle Dum” in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Both Starlight and MTA of Anthem feature performances by and for youth

She’s excited about Starlight’s 2011/12 season, which includes “Willy Wonka,” “Miracle of 34th Street – The Musical,” “Fame!,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Rapunzel,” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Playwright and director Jim Gradillas, artistic director for Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria, will be heading the “Rapunzel” production. Sarah praises Gradillas for working directly with each actor, for being a master at motivating kids to do their best, and for using games and other strategies to keep theater time fresh and fun.

So far Sarah has performed in just a single Musical Theatre of Anthem production — “The Wizard of Oz.” But she hopes to perform in more MTA shows down the road.

The 2011/12 lineup for Musical Theatre of Anthem includes “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.,” “13,” “Willy Wonka, Jr.,” “Seussical, Jr.,” and “Annie.” Sarah describes it as “a good selection” but already knows at least one show will conflict with other plans for the coming year.

Sarah is especially excited about auditioning for “Annie.” While she’d love to play the lead, Sarah told me that young actors have the best chance of getting major roles when they indicate a genuine willingness to accept any part they’re offered.

When I asked Sarah for additional audition tips for children and teens, she happily shared quite a few of them. Be present. Don’t act nervous. Make eye contact. Be easygoing. And most of all, don’t be fake. “Act like yourself,” suggests Sarah.

The approach seems to be working for Sarah, who shared that she’s already recording her singing and working with a producer at Island Def Jam Recordings.

She’d love to break into the music business or land an acting gig with Disney or Nickelodeon. She even shared this link to her performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Whatever the future holds for Sarah, it’s clear that her time on Anthem stages is serving her well — and that the memories she’s making right here in the Valley will last a lifetime.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the websites for Musical Theatre of Anthem and Starlight Community Theater to learn about current productions and summer programs. And watch for a photo of Sarah coming soon…

Coming up: Transformers — opera style, New plays — festival style

Update: An open call audition for the roles of Annie and the orphans in a new Broadway production of “Annie” is taking place June 12 for girls ages 6-12. Click here for details.

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