I have to admit, I’m a bit jaded when it comes to theater and the entire cast consists of child actors. I consider it a victory when they get their lines out in a reasonably timely fashion and I can hear half the words. CenterStage Academy’s productions of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Kids and Shrek the Musical Jr. made it obvious that these stereotypes just don’t stand up when it comes to this youth theater program.
When the youngest CenterStage Academy students took the stage, they were focused on what they were doing and they did a credible job with this classic Winnie the Pooh tale. While it was sometimes a bit of a strain to hear their small voices, they made a real effort to project and captivated the audience with good performances as Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo and company searched for the “backson” in Christopher Robin’s note.
The narrators did a good job of weaving the story together and helping the audience, with the assistance of the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood, and search for the “backson” only to discover when Christopher Robin showed up that he had really written the words “back soon.”
The actors in Shrek Jr. were a bit older and definitely more polished. In fact, Shrek Jr. was so good that it would have held its own for any audience. It was obvious that these talented young people were the students of veteran CenterStage Academy instructors.
All the performances were so good, that I’m not sure that professionals could have done better. The set and costumes were spectacular. CenterStage Academy is a yearlong program that helps aspiring actors acquire performance skills. The instructors and directors were Frank Goodloe III, Kim Hartz, Jordan Price and Andrew Stairs.
Sean Green, the father of nine-year-old Olivia Green who played the bishop in Shrek Jr. explained that his daughter had been in a couple of other small productions, but Shrek Jr. was her first show with CenterStage Academy.
“She’s just starting [acting],” he said, “but she’s had a great experience. All her coaches were terrific and motivated and it’s been fun to see what they’ve done. It’s been impressive. This is probably the nicest set and production” the young thespian has worked with to date. Green liked the instruction Olivia got throughout the year, giving her the opportunity to develop different skills – sometimes as a group with the other young actors and sometimes individually. He is pleased that “she gets to learn from other people who’ve done it longer.”