Broadway's Future - 'They Chose Me!'
New York City, the city that has the best of everything, also has one of the best children theater groups currently available to the city's young, aspiring actors. TADA! Youth Theater not only gives the children involved an excellent hands on education about dramatic and musical theater, it also presents some overall solid productions with several noteworthy performances. Now in its 21st season, TADA brings to stage the production of They Chose Me!, a musical about adoption told from a child's perspective.
As you walk into the theater, one of the first things you notice is a very simple, yet impressive set. A repeated geometric pattern of large squares covers the floor and on the backdrop which easily adds dimension and color to the stage, much like a symbolic foreshadowing of the stories that are about to be told. When the children come out on stage for their first number, "Our Say," you are immediately impressed by both the sheer physical number of children and the quality performance that they give. The opening number features strong harmonies and complementing "under-melodies" that makes you instantly understand that you're not in store for your typical children's musical.
Katie Wells, Sam Levine & Dea Julien Ensemble
What's impressive about TADA's production of They Chose Me! is that the script stays very "kid friendly." Michael Colby and Ned Paul Ginsburg, writers of this production, did a great job focusing their artistic talent by remembering to write from a child's perspective. Colby and Ginsburg come up with a brilliant script for children's theater which manages to stay current, fun and understandable to the 10 through 18 year olds who are acting it. Although most of the cast is not adopted, the script offers up an overall scenario that is very relatable to the child actors. By providing the juvenile cast with a script that isn't over their heads, a quality production ensues that the children have fun with. To further praise Colby and Ginsburg,, the perspective consistently stays true to the story it is telling. The script is extremely credible by showcasing the child's voice throughout the production with mentions of the Flintstones, Incredibles and even Harry Potter and never once is filled with adult jargon. The simplicity of it is what makes it great.
The script also manages to supply a lot of humor with a non-offending look at today's traditional and "not so traditional" family. One boy sings about his life living with two mothers, while a girl sings with pride about being an Asian Jew. The script also takes a realistic look at adoption and acknowledges both the good and bad parts about foster life. Additionally, the script works with the lonely feeling children get while they are waiting to find their new parents. The song, "A Home," sung by Jimmy played by Robert Aviles of Manhattan, is a standout performance. Jimmy sings about his dream of settling down with a new home and family and you find yourself with your mouth agape as you listen. At only 12 years of age, Aviles belts out the song with such heart that it tops any "rising star" on American Idol – believe me, "pitchy" never even once crossed my mind. Aviles' noteworthy performance is the perfect example of how They Chose Me! keeps surprising the audience – the show starts out strong and ends only stronger.
Sydney Fishman & Jasmine Perez
Tada's production of They Chose Me! features a cast full of stars with an unbelievable amount of talent and potential to only achieve bigger and better things. The entire cast of They Chose Me! is comprised of "little" professionals who are savvy in a stage setting. Like seasoned stage actors, they thank the lighting crew and band during their bows and support one another 100% throughout the performance. Every child is given a chance to speak, most even a chance to sing either solo or in a small group. And during every second of the performance, all 20 plus children on stage are engaged in what is going on – never once did I see a wandering eye. If there is one criticism to give, it's that they didn't let the applause go on long enough after the first number. But that's alright – there's still time to learn. If Broadway wants to catch a glimpse of its future, it had better come here.
They Chose Me! will run through May 7th at the TADA! Theater located at 15 West 28th Street, between Broadway and 5th Avenue. Performances are Fridays at 7pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm and 4pm. For more information, please visit www.tadatheater.com
Photo Credit: Shelley Norton