Northwest Tucson Spotlight Youth Productions is continuing its tradition of having nearly 50 actors put on a summer play. This year’s performance is Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”.
The actors, who all range from 8 to 14 years old, already have one weekend of shows done and behind them. This weekend, they will put in their final shows on Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15 at the John J. Pedicone Jr. Performing Arts Center at Flowing Wells High School. Both performances begin at 7 p.m.
Not new to the production, but new to her role of directing is Marana resident Jennifer Holthaus. In the past, she has been the choreographer for the group, but in the wake of the previous director Tom Moser retiring, Holthaus stepped up to the new role.
“This couldn’t go away, this whole thing with the kids can’t go away,” Holthaus said. “It’s such a great little community that everybody has built. I feel like this is a family between the kids, their parents as volunteers, and the staff. It really is a really tight-knit family and a community. Everyone pitches in a different way.”
Last week, the group moved from their practice space they have been using every Friday since September at Resurrection Lutheran Church, to the arts center at Flowing Wells High School. The students were running through their blocking and getting the lighting cues set up as parent volunteers were diligently working behind the scenes organizing and touching up props, trees for the background were being painted and trimmed, and final touches and adjustments were being made on costumes.
For the past year, the group has been rehearsing, preparing and coaching the 45 students for these performances, which are slightly different between the two weekend performances as the group switches roles around to share the bigger roles among the group.
“It’s not just your average play,” Holthaus said “Everybody here goes above and beyond to create entertainment for the audience. I think some of the audience members will be absolutely delighted at what they see – they’ll leave with a smile, for sure.”
But the production is more than simply a play. The kids involved often come back year after year to be a part of not only the production, but community of friends.
Savannah Lawson, 12, who lives in Oro Valley, has been with the group for the past five years. She performed in Beauty and the Beast a few years ago, Fiddler on the Roof, Aladdin, and Annie. For this production of Beauty and Beast, she is playing the role of Mrs. Potts.
“It is just a fun thing to do on Friday nights,” Lawson said. “You can really express your talents in singing, listening and acting. It’s really fun.”
She also enjoys the fact that not only does she get to meet new people while being involved with the production, she likes that she can invite her friends, too.
For other actors, like Oro Valley resident Alex Carroll, 14, this is his first time being involved with Northwest Tucson Spotlight Youth Productions. In this play, he will be playing the role of Cogsworth.
“I’ve made a lot of new friends while being here. The whole experience of just being part of a play is really, really exciting,” Carroll said.
Carroll had participated in a few plays at his school in the past, but was looking for a production outside of school to also be a part of and came across Northwest Tucson Spotlight Youth Productions.
For 11-year-old Mackenzie Kester, who lives in Oro Valley, this is her third play with the production group. She got involved with the group because she had a friend who was already participating with the group. She also swims on a regular basis and really enjoyed the change of pace that the group offered.
“It was a kind of a relief just to chill out and have fun with everybody,” Kester said. “I think the atmosphere is really great.”
In July the group will have a summer camp for kids to try it out and see if it something they would like to do. During the camp, there will be acting and singing and they will put on a mini-performance.
For more information on the current performance of Beauty and the Beast or for information to have a child participate, go to http://spotlightyouthproductions.com/