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It actually happened. The Central Kentucky Youth Actors cast of ‘Grease’, under the direction of Jan Fattizzi, really did make it to Disney, and they had a truly fabulous performance. The crowd loved it! The applause was huge! A couple from Germany wanted to know the time of their next performance because they wanted to watch our kids again because they were so good!
Yes, the CKYA cast of ‘Grease’ played to an international audience at Downtown Disney during Magic Music Days.
The kids and their families worked hard picking up trash, washing cars and giving for-donation performances. The community support and generosity of both Washington and Marion counties was humbling and earned the travel, hotel and park expenses of the cast and a nice discount for their chaperones to ease the financial burden on families.
The trip started from WCES where we loaded our stuff into the Bluegrass Tours bus. Our first stop was downtown Springfield for an official sendoff from the city. We were thrilled to have the Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival stopped just for us. Then off to Florida!
There is no way for a human body over four feet tall to get comfortable on a bus for any period of time. We know, we tried. We did get the kids’ picture taken with a palm tree at dawn. They were a very sleepy, grumpy bunch until Phil Campbell mocked the photographer behind her back – the dear children thought that was pretty funny. After 15 torturous hours on the bus with little or no sleep, we arrived Saturday at Disney, straightened out our room reservations and moved in.
Sunday morning we were on the bus again by 8 a.m., and headed to the dance workshop at Epcot. The workshop was great. The kids learned two dance routines and many new steps and moves. The dance instructor filled them in on the importance of attitude, work ethic, discipline, commitment, demeanor, personality and resumes in addition to singing, acting and dancing skills.
The workshop lasted three hours and included a cast-call experience. The kids were called forward in small groups, had to dance the routine and answer questions like, “Do you hold up well under extreme heat” and “Would you be OK if we hung you from a wire 50 feet in the air?” to “Do you like kids?” and “How would you feel about having a snake wrapped around your neck? How about petting a skunk?”
After all the small groups performed and were interviewed, the “talent scout” chose the students who made the ‘call backs’. These are the actors in the audition who merit a closer look or who have made the cut. It gave the cast a real taste of what happens in a real audition. Though many of the cast raised their hands when they were asked how many wanted to go into the entertainment field, the skills and lessons learned in the workshop will hold them in good stead, whatever their future brings.
After the group polished up their dance routines to “Zip, Zip, Zip” (yep, Zippity doo dah day!) and “The Circle of Life,” guess who came dancing in to join them - yes, Goofy! The cast got a real bang out of that! He even stayed around for a group shot.
The cast was energized and had gained confidence in their new dance skill! The rest of Sunday was spent exploring Epcot, and then a late-night stop to scope out the stage at Downtown Disney. The cast spread out over the huge stage to get a feel for the size of it and how to use every bit of the space. Artistic director Scott Fattizzi told the cast about listening to the monitor and how not to be thrown by the echo off the buildings in front of the stage. After a good luck wish from Disney security, we were back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before the big day!
After breakfast, Monday morning started with a run through of the performance. The cast didn’t sing the songs, they ran through the physical placement, movement and microphone hand offs. Then into costumes: pony tails, Brylcreem and leather jackets! The cast and parents boarded the bus and the excitement was high as we headed to Downtown Disney.
When we arrived, the bus was met by our Disney contact and event manager. The cast and children’s theatre director Jan Fattizzi were led away to a holding tent to warm up, and the parents made their way to the Waterfront Stage at Downtown Disney to wait. Dads John Ball, Randy Barlow, Phil Campbell, Todd Curtsinger and Bryan Jones got their chance to be ‘roadies’.
There are no words to express the emotions that ran through the parents as their kids walked up to that stage. Our hearts were in our throats and we were so proud, and our kids were really good! Everyone walking by stopped and stayed. Yes, they did us all very proud! Springfield, you have something very special here with the Central Kentucky Community Theatre at the Opera House. The cast was polished, in excellent voice and every bit as professional as any group that has appeared on that Disney stage!
Several locals commented that our kids were one of the best acts they’ve ever seen perform there. The cast was praised by Disney personnel for their talent, performance and behavior. From the way they talked, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some our kids were picked by Disney later!
The rest of the trip included a trip to the ocean and time on the beach. Some of the group went to Universal Studios where several costume pieces for this Spring’s CKYA performance of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat’ were purchased. The rest of the time was free for the kids to enjoy the Disney experience. Everyone at Disney is a performer in one way or another and it was great for the cast to see all the possibilities.