Jessica Vanek is 17 years old and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is a senior at the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts High School where she studies as a theatre/musical theatre major. She will be attending Oklahoma City University this fall. Though she loves musical theatre, she also has a deep devotion to jazz and standards. She performs all across Las Vegas and has been pursuing her passion since the age of 9.
Jess here. Las Vegas is known for its groundbreaking entertainment and risky performances. The production I just saw of HAND TO GOD at the newly-opened Majestic Repertory Theatre is no exception to the rule. This show was undoubtedly the funniest work I have ever seen, thanks to the actors and director, Troy Heard. HAND TO GOD follows Jason, a troubled teenage boy with a strange connection to his homemade puppet. Jason struggles to please his recently widowed mother who has put together a daily "Puppet Practice" group in the basement of a local Texas Lutheran Church. Things slowly start to spiral out of control when Jason's puppet, Tyrone, seems to develop a sinister mind of his own. Chaos and consequences ensue, as Jason and Tyrone ultimately go wild.BWW Blog: Jessica Vanek - Audiences Applaud Cockroach Theatre's SPINNING INTO BUTTER March 27, 2017
Jess here. I recently saw my first show at Cockroach Theatre, a well-established theatre company located here in Las Vegas. SPINNING INTO BUTTER by Rebecca Gilmanexposes current social issues through an honest story that could, in reality, have taken place in Anywhere, USA. This play dealt with concepts not normally portrayed on a stage, and delivered a powerful punch that left the audience enlightened. The story is set at fictional Belmont College in Vermont, and explores racial issues that college campuses sometimes face. The show begins with Sarah Daniels, a Dean who is trying to get a student to lie about his ethnicity so he will be a stronger candidate for a scholarship. She does this with the best intentions, but it's not taken well by the student, Patrick Chibas. Meanwhile Simon (a character in name only), an African-American student attending the predominantly white Belmont College, reports a series of hate crimes being inflicted upon him. Dean Daniels along with two other Deans struggle to fix the issue, yet against Dean Daniels' better judgment, decide that a campus-wide forum is the best way to remedy the situation. Ultimately, the forum is a huge failure, and results in more of a divide than it began with. Dean Daniels continues to try to do what's right, but struggles with the process due to her subconscious racism. This story discusses the complexity of race and discrimination and how, despite the outlawing of segregation, America still struggles to treat all races equally. March 16, 2017
Jess here. One of my favorite entertainment hotspots in Las Vegas is none other than The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. March 10, 2017 marked their 5th Anniversary, and I was lucky enough to attend their 'Celebrating Five Years of Heart' concert last week. Hosted by Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor (stars of the revival of THE LAST FIVE YEARS), this extravaganza included a variety of exciting performances, allowing audience members to experience the arts in a fashion that only the Smith Center can provide. BWW Blog: Jessica Vanek - Birthday Time For Stephen Sondheim March 13, 2017
Jess here. Every once in awhile you hear about a show that you would do just about anything to see. Although the stages of Las Vegas offer a variety of amazing entertainment options on a nightly basis, it's a rare occasion to have the opportunity to see a multi-talented performer whose career spans across several different medias; from TV to film to Broadway. When I saw that The Smith Center for the Performing Arts was hosting a show featuring Santino Fontana I was ecstatic! Initially scheduled for a two night run, Fontana's Friday night show was cancelled due to a foot of snow closing down all of the NYC area airports. Thankfully, 'the show must go on' adage rang true, and Fontana was welcomed to the sunny desert on Saturday night by an eagerly awaiting, over-packed house.BWW Blog: Jessica Vanek - Michael Feinstein's Great American SONGBOOK ACADEMY 2017 is in Full Swing February 6, 2017
Jess here. Last summer I had the opportunity to spend a week in Carmel, Indiana with 39 of the most talented teens I've ever met. What happens in Carmel, you ask? THE SONGBOOK ACADEMY! Now in its eighth season, the Songbook Academy is an annual week long summer music intensive designed for teens who are passionate about the music of the Great American Songbook. Michael Feinstein, the multi-platinum-selling, two-time Emmy and five-time Grammy Award-nominated entertainer founded the Great American Songbook Foundation in 2007. Each year he helms the program, and brings Broadway actors, Grammy and Emmy winners, and faculty from collegiate arts music programs to work alongside him in educating students about the rich history, songs and composers associated with the Great American Songbook. February 2, 2017
Jess here. In my very first article I wrote about what makes a good show. One of the points that was brought up included the importance of having a cohesive ensemble (and by ensemble, I mean the entire cast). I had the pleasure of seeing these words come to life on stage this past week. I saw two high school theatre productions, each perfectly demonstrating the role a cohesive ensemble plays in taking a show to the next level. January 23, 2017
Jess here. I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend a production ofA Little Night Music at the Las Vegas Little Theatre, a well-established theatre company here in town. As Sondheim is my favorite composer, this was immensely pleasing to see. The story is set in 1900's Sweden, and follows the lives of Fredrik Egerman and his young wife, Anne. Their inner turmoil when dealing with all things romantic is apparent from the outset, with 'Soon/Later/Now' sung by Anne, Fredrik, and Fredrik's son, Henrik, clearly defining the show's underlying premise of frustration, longing and infidelity. When actress Desiree Armfeldt, Fredrik's former lover, happens by their town on tour, an opportunity to rekindle the romance comes into play, however foiled by the unexpected arrival of Desiree's married lover, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm. Subsequently, the development of several unbeknownst love triangles and pairings surface in Act II, as the group members all rendezvous at the country estate of Desiree's mother, Madame Armfeldt, for a climactic 'Weekend in the Country.'BWW Blog: Jessica Vanek - What Makes a Good Show? January 18, 2017
Jess here. 2017 is upon us, and keeping with tradition, I have made a resolution. No, it's not your typical "eat healthier" or "get a gym membership" kind of resolution, its one involving creativity. You see, I attend a performing arts high school in Las Vegas and I can safely say that the art of musical theatre is my passion. I've decided to write a one act musical this year, a feat which I know is incredibly daunting, but I am always up for a challenge. I already have my plotline figured out, and I'm really happy with what I have, but now I just need to write it. The problem is, I don't know where to start. When looking at iconic musicals, I find it impossible to make a distinct connection between them all. This begs the question, what makes a good show? This can be interpreted many ways; from a technical standpoint, to the content, to the actors portraying the characters. The whole idea of "a good show" baffles me, because no one shares the same opinion when defining what is good vs. what is bad.