Entering the main stage

September 8, 2018
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Pictured is the Paramount Kids acting troupe, who will perform "Madagascar — A Musical Adventure Jr.," on Sept. 18.

The historic Paramount Arts Center in nearby Ashland continues its current initiative of cultivating local show business talent with the new production of the musical “Madagascar — A Musical Adventure Jr.”

Based on the Dreamworks animated hit movie “Madagascar,” this live version of the story includes all of the great music from the film as well as the beloved characters, which include Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the hip-hop Hippo and the popular “plotting penguins.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Paramount Kids acting troupe will present their live production of “Madagascar — A Musical Adventure Jr.” for the general public at 6:30 p.m. at the Paramount Arts Center. Earlier this day, they will perform two daytime shows for school kids from kindergarten to seventh grade at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The musical is one hour long.

The Paramount Kids troupe is a part of the Paramount Players company of actors. Both are made up of local actors who live in multiple regions in and around the Tri-State.

Melanie Cornelison-Jannotta runs the overall Paramount Players program.

“This production of Madagascar — A Musical Adventure Jr. features actors ranging from 7 to 17 years of age,” she said. “The show runs for approximately one hour and features some of the music from the movie including the song ‘Move It, Move It,’ so the play will be exactly the same as what the kids are used to who love the film. This is going to be a super fun show and a great night of family entertainment.”

The Paramount Kids troupe helps to give young talent the much-needed experience of performing in front of a live audience.

“This is the second year of the Paramount Kids program,” said Cornelison-Jannotta. “We have so many talented young actors and actresses out there that don’t have the opportunity to play lead parts in most of the Main Stage productions until they are older and more experienced. The Paramount Kids

program, however, uses scripts that have been modified specifically for actors that are ages 7 through 18. Many times the shows are shorter versions of full length stage musicals, such as our recent productions of ‘Shrek, Jr.’ and ‘The Addams Family Jr.’ ‘Madagascar — A Musical Adventure Jr.’ is based on the Dreamworks film and is designed to showcase younger actors. The show gives them much-needed learning experiences in the theater so they are more prepared when they audition for bigger shows.”

Rick Payne is the director of “Madagascar — A Musical Adventure Jr.”

“The Paramount Kids productions are directed by different people each time,” said Cornelison-Jannotta. “I think you learn something new and important from every director you work with, and that includes current Director Rick Payne. The other members of the production crew include Musical Director Mark Baker, Choreographer Serena Johnson, Production Manager Allison Hammond and Assistant Director Dani Boyles. Rick has directed several other Paramount Players productions and according to him, ‘It is a joy to work with so many talented children and see them grow and shine on stage.’”

Working with young people can be a challenge, for many reasons, yet it can also be incredibly rewarding. The Paramount Kids troupe provides the fascinating opportunity to spark an interest in the arts in young people that could lead to a bright future in some instances, or at the very least, will enhance confidence in others.

“The main difference with the Paramount Kids program is that so many of the young participants are new to the theater,” said Cornelison-Jannotta. “With them, you are literally starting from scratch at the beginning of each production. You are teaching the young actors stage direction, how to project their voice, how to use their bodies onstage and everything else that goes into putting together a new show. And yes, keeping 50 kids focused during a rehearsal can be a challenge. But, it is a great thing to watch.

“Sometimes, a child will come and do a show and they decide that acting is not their thing, while it is only the beginning for others. Those young people realize that they love performing and they go on to become permanent members of the Paramount Players.”

The Paramount Arts Center is located at 1300 Winchester Ave. in Ashland. Tickets for the two student matinees will be $6.

Tickets for the evening show will be $10 in advance or $12 the night of the event. Visit www.paramountartscenter.com or 606-324-0007.

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