BWW Reviews: Zach's Pre-Professional Company Presents Rollicking Revue, BROADWAY WORKS
In a recent interview with BroadwayWorld-Austin, Josh Wechsler, one of the many instructors at Zach Theatre's Pre-Professional Company, said, "The company is pre-professional only in name." After seeing Broadway Rocks, the company's celebration of Broadway's rock and roll musicals, I'm inclined to agree.
Director and co-choreographer Jennifer Young Mahlstedt, fellow co-choreographer Vincent Sandoval, vocal director Josh Wechsler, and musical director Ammon Taylor certainly treat the company of young performers as professionals, and rightfully so. Though they may range in age from 9 to 18, all of them show a passion and poise that some more seasoned performers sometimes lack. It's no surprise that they are given such challenging songs and choreography; they can pull it off.
The material selected for them, while widely staying in the realm of rock and roll musicals (the exception being a beautiful but out of place medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes sung by the extraordinary Kalie Naftzger, Taylor Thomas, and Meg Wilimont), allows the performers to showcase their vocal abilities and high energy stage presence. The youngest of the bunch were complete crowd-pleasers with their two big numbers, "Revolting Children" from Matilda and "Footloose." The older girls in the company wowed with a medley of songs from the new Carol King musical, "Beautiful," and there's something special in hearing high school age girls, who are all at a vulnerable point in their lives, belt out a female empowerment anthem like "Natural Woman."
But it's the senior troupe that really owns the spotlight. In the second half, the seniors go through a non-stop juggernaut of songs from Spring Awakening and Rent. During the sequence, they remain onstage for a full half hour and sing hit after hit song. It's an exercise in stamina, and they do it as any true professional would do.
For more information about Zach Theatre's Pre-Professional Company, please visit http://www.zachtheatre.org/education