By COLLETTE CAPRARA FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
When several families with a background in theater surveyed the area, looking for opportunities for young people to experience live performances, they realized that, especially for large families, the costs involved were prohibitive and rallied people in the community to create an affordable offer. In a short time, they achieved their goal of launching a theater that would not only incur minimal costs but would be free, not only for young performers but also for the public. Thus, Aspire Christian Theater was born.
ACT originally started in 2019 hoping to put on “The Wizard of Oz” for the community, but the band had to cancel due to COVID-19. Health precautions at the height of the pandemic led to a two-year hiatus in performances. It was good for ACT to return to the stage in 2021 with more excitement and energy than ever with their production of “Aladdin Jr.”
ACT President Michael Cannon recounts the excitement of their first production – in terms of everything from the number of young people who auditioned, to the community members and parents who generously gave their financial support, time and talents, to viewers who attended the November performances at the Fredericksburg Library.
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Now, ACT is set to launch Disney’s “Camp Rock” on April 1 at the Caroline County Community Services Center.
As the story of the contending music camps unfolds, we encounter an array of emerging young performer personalities and their response to the lures of the spotlight, the adulation of peers, and the prospect of first love. These characters belong, literally, to two camps: Camp Rock, who embodies the essence of camaraderie, friendships, and heartfelt bonds of a theater troupe; and Camp Star, the epitome of flash, glitz and one-upmanship that could emerge from the performing arts world.
Some members of Camp Rock switch allegiances, answering the siren call of competitor Camp Star, who uses any means to establish their superiority and claims victory in a duel of competing performances. Yet, in the end, the heart wins out and the qualities of humble Camp Rock win back its members and even a new entourage of supporters in the community.
With a message about the power of authenticity and the heart, “Camp Rock” seems like a perfect fit for ACT’s values-based mission, which is to “develop character and creativity in children of all ages through to quality education in the performing arts and the technical skills that enrich them.
Cannon said, “Because we want the children who participate to have an authentic quality theater experience, we do everything we can to produce a great show and use a portion of our profits to compensate our artistic team.”
The production features a cast of 30 young people, and their skills have been honed with input from director Alisha Shoffner, musical director Anna Smith, stage manager Makenzi Wentela, and choreographers Samantha White and Eleanor Richards.
The saga of the dueling bands comes to life with performances from a host of talented young actors, including Aliana Radman as Mitchie, who emerges as the leader of Camp Rock; Larkin Komar as Tess, the Camp Rock diva; Collin Smith as Axel, the owner of Camp Star; and Malakai Ross as Luke, the first Camp Star performer with an ego to match.
Aspire Christian Theater’s auditions for “Camp Rock” drew an enthusiastic response from young people across the region, including Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Stafford and Caroline counties, and even Annandale and Ashland.
“I hope families will come and see what the young people in our community are capable of. They put on amazing shows that can inspire their peers to join in the fun,” Cannon said.