BWW Exclusive: Jay-Alexander Takes BWW Orlando Behind Scenes at New Dr. Phillips Center
In everyone's lives, there are moments that they will never forget; and for four talented Central Florida girls, one of those moments came last Thursday, as they were selected to perform on November 15th alongside world-renowned stars of nearly every musical genre at "Broadway & Beyond," the Grand Premiere event of Orlando's newest performance venue, The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The event will feature Broadway's Norm Lewis and Sierra Boggess, in addition to many others. For more information, or to purchase tickets to this incredible event, call 407-839-0119 or visit www.drphillipscenter.org.
The opportunity was the brainchild of the event's director, Richard Jay-Alexander, a theatrical legend who served as the Associate Director on the original Broadway production of LES MIERABLES, and Executive Produced LES MIS, MISS SAIGON, and FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE. He is also the go-to concert director for Barbra Streisand, Kristin Chenoweth, Bernadette Peters, and more. Earlier this year, Jay-Alexander also directed
"BroadwayWorld.com Visits Oz: The Concert" (click for full pictures of the event). As he is a member of the BroadwayWorld family, Jay-Alexander invited us behind the scenes to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Sticking with the Ozian theme, with the classic MGM motion picture celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year, Jay-Alexander thought it would be a fitting tribute for a local girl to sing the iconic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the concert. However, what he didn't anticipate was just how much talent Central Florida had to offer. After an exhaustive audition process that saw nearly 90 girls, ages nine-14, sing for Alexander and a panel of Dr. Phillips Center staff, the seasoned director was left with four young performers that he just couldn't say "No" to. So, as BroadwayWorld previously reported, he cast all four; Kristen Brock of Lakeland, Naomi Gomez of Orlando, Abigail Marotta of Ocoee, and Sarah Mills of Oviedo.
As the auditions got underway, the waiting room was filled with many anxious girls and parents, including Gomez. "I was extremely nervous and excited, but mostly I was just praying, and praying, and praying." she continued, "I knew this was going to be a once in a lifetime thing for me, and I knew I couldn't blow my chance."
Once in the room, the girls sang showtunes as varied as "Til There Was You" from THE MUSIC MAN and "Broadway Baby" from FOLLIES, but one of the most exciting aspects of the process was watching Jay-Alexander interact with the young performers. No matter how the audition had gone, he always provided positive feedback ensuring that each girl left the audition smiling.
However, when he was really excited by an audition, Jay-Alexander would hop out of his chair and redirect the singer; he would have the accompanist raise and lower keys, he would help the performer understand the meaning of her song, or he would quickly help remedy small vocal issues that a girl might have. Often his direction turned impressive performances into extraordinary ones; an exciting omen for "Broadway & Beyond" next month.
In the two and a half hours that BWW Orlando was in the audition room, Jay-Alexander spoke to a number of parents, providing advice on coaching, promising to work with their daughters again, and in a few cases, arranging contacts with high-profile New York talent agents. Over his career, Jay-Alexander has discovered such talent as Lea Michele, Ricky Martin, and Daisy Eagan, the youngest female Tony Award winner; and perhaps he found his next superstar here in Central Florida.
While Marotta was excited about the opportunity, she was more excited by Jay-Alexander's impressive resume. "I couldn't believe I was going to be able to audition for such an amazing guy. He's worked with Kristin Chenoweth, and she's like, my idol."
After another auditioner sang "Don't Rain on My Parade," Jay-Alexander pulled out his cell phone and shot a video of the girl expressing her love for Barbra Streisand; then he sent it to the legendary singer and actress. Next he plans on arranging a Skype call between the two.
In another special case, Jay-Alexander even took to dance to help a young singer connect with the meaning and lyrics of "So This is Love" from Disney's CINDERELLA:
Thursday night, Jay-Alexander and Dr. Phillips staff members called every girl who auditioned, and one of those calls led to Mills becoming overwhelmed.
"I felt like I was dreaming, I thought 'This can't be real. I can't have made it.' I never thought that I would... go this far. I just started to cry, I'm so excited for what's to come. I'm also a little nervous too, but it's a good nervous," (Mills will be playing the role of Jo in The Master's Academy production of LITTLE WOMEN at the Orlando Rep this week, and she asked us to include a link to tickets, and since she will soon be a big star, how could we refuse?).
On Friday, after the auditions and media availabilities were over, Jay-Alexander took BroadwayWorld Orlando into the Disney Concert Hall, where "Broadway & Beyond" will take place. The massive 2,700 seat theater is still under-construction, but it was clear that Central Florida's newest venue will be an extremely special facility. For more about the special concert, check out the exclusive video with Jay-Alexander below, and make sure to connect with us via BroadwayWorld Orlando's new Twitter and Facebook pages. We will have more exciting, exclusive coverage of "Broadway & Beyond" over the next month.