Taking a break from jumping up and down to “Look At Me Now” by Chris Brown in the dressing room with three other girls, sophomore Maddy Heigele takes a few sips of water and goes over her memorized dance steps and lyrics in her head. Meanwhile, sophomores Alec and Justin Armer, are pumping themselves up by smiling big and shaking off their nerves.
“It’s different every time, but somehow I like to get my energy up.” Alec said.
It’s minutes until showtime now, and the cast runs backstage prepared for the opening number, “Arabian Nights.” Heigele and the Armers were three of the eight teens cast in the production of “Aladdin” at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which ran from Feb. 1-5.
A month before rehearsals began, Heigele and the Armers warmed themselves up on a dance floor in the Starlight Theater. The directors came into their warm-up space to explain the process of the audition and remind them to have fun.
“At Starlight they are more like, ‘It’s fine. Don’t even worry about it. Just have fun.’ It’s not about if you mess up or anything,” Heigele said. “‘If you smile, you’ll be fine.’”
The teens auditioning were taught two dances, one from Aladdin and one from Narnia. The dancers were expected to learn two 30-second-to-a-minute dances within a timeframe of about 10 minutes and perform them for the directors. The directors deliberated on who should be called back, and those who did were expected to have 16 bars of a ballad prepared.
“It’s all these weaseling down processes to see if you’re a good enough dancer, if you’re a good enough singer, and then if you can act,” Alec said.
The Armers awaited their phone call from the director nervously after seeing on Facebook that Heigele had made the cast. A month later, the rehearsals began. The cast had one week to learn the entire show.
“I think our first rehearsal we learned most of the songs and right after one of them our director was like, ‘Okay we are going to block this,’ and the whole cast was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we don’t know any of this at all,” Heigele said.
Rehearsals took place Monday through Saturday at Starlight, and then two final tech rehearsals at the Kauffman Center. During the tech rehearsals there was a lot of free time.
“Things that would take five minutes to work through tech at school,” Justin said, “would take close to an hour at the Kauffman Center because everyone is learning new things about how to work the system there.”
Tech rehearsal on Monday was the first time the technical directors along with the performers had practiced working in the Kauffman Center. Both the directors and performers had to take time to figure out their placement on stage and how to use the theater equipment.
During free time Heigele and close friend Erik Sobbe, who played Aladdin, liked to explore the Kauffman Center.
“We just started going around the whole Kauffman and looking around, and then we started rapping the “Bon Qui Qui” rap — and the guy who played Jafar, Martin, started rapping with us too,” Heigele said. “It was just really funny.”
Heigele, Towns Person #3 and Chorus Member, Justin, Chorus Member and Alec, Chorus Member and Dancer, all agree that the experience gained from a professional show and the reassuring fact that the show will be completed well and on time is a pro to being in a professional production.
“I just love working with Starlight people,” Heigele, who has been in numerous Starlight productions, said. “They are so nice.”
The cast members got the opportunity to bond throughout the few weeks of rehearsals and performances. In between shows on opening day the teen cast went to AMC Main Street downtown to see a movie.
“That was eight hours when we were all just…with each other,” Justin said.
The Armers realized much more was expected of them when it came to being in a professional show, but with that extra effort they also got much more knowledge out of the experience.
“Working on such a professional level was really rewarding because a lot of the adults who were getting paid were really nice and fun to interact with and talk to — especially about their experiences in theater,” Alec said. “It’s encouraging to hear all these people who are at least somewhat successful in professional theater and are getting paid for it.”
Heigele and the Armers were extremely excited to get to perform on the Kauffman Center stage because of all the hype it gets.
“You look out to the audience from the stage and you see a balcony and then you see a balcony and then you’re looking straight up and you see there’s a third balcony and it’s incredible,” said Justin.