Backstage on closing night at the Plant City Entertainment theater on North Thomas Street actors young and old gave their take of why they were eager to perform the classical tunes of Broadway's hit shows.
"I like the reaction from the audience," said Kaden Olney, of his role as Oliver singing the hit tune, "Consider Yourself."
"I like how much they clap," added the incoming third-grader.
The six-show run in July 2012 drew a cast of 37 and sell-out, standing-ovation crowds on several nights.
"I liked playing the Artful Dodger," said Ethan Richardson, of his role in the songs from Oliver! the musical. "I liked being Dodge because I wanted a challenge. I got a lead part, this is my first time."
Encouraged by his uncle, Allen Richardson, a cast member and veteran community theater actor, Ethan Richardson said he "just loved being out there for the three minutes" he got to "make people laugh."
Kaden's sister, Taylyn, played the roles of Leisl, the oldest von Trapp daughter in The Sound of Music, and Dorothy, from The Wizard of Oz. She said she, too, was encouraged by an uncle -- in her case, Vinnie Natale -- to pursue some time on the community theater stage.
"I've been doing it year after year and it's so much fun," said the incoming 7th grader. "You get to meet new people every time you do a show."
Mikayla Anderson, who sang a tune from Beauty and the Beast, agreed. "It's fun to be with your friends, doing something different," said the incoming sixth grader.
Lisa Westcott, regional director of the Joshua Generational Musical Theater Company in Brandon, said she enjoyed being on stage with her daughter, Hannah.
"It was just another opportunity for my daughter and I to do something together," she said. "Just like I did when I was in Annie [as Mrs. Hannigan], I enjoy doing what I teach my [Joshua Generation] students to do."
Donald Spiers took to the stage as Tevye, from Fiddler on the Roof, and as Pseudolus, the saucy servant from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
"I like Tevye, it's a dream role, a role I've always wanted to do," he said. "His simple faith, no matter what happens, in God. No matter what, he knows God has a plan for him."
Tevye's "bemused relationship" with God "is a negotation as much as anything else," said Spiers, who sang the song, "If I Were a Rich Man."
The show for Olivia Mitchell was a family affair as much as a community affair. Olivia was three months old when her mother in 1999 played the role of Mama Rose in Gypsy.
Before and since, Kim Mitchell has been a mainstay on the community theater stage, along with her husband, Tom, who for The Best of Broadway designed and built the set. Kim Mitchell's mother, Shirley Outen, handles pubilcity for Plant City Entertainment.
On stage in July Kim Mitchell reprised her role as Mama Rose, singing, "I Had a Dream."
"The first time she [played the role] I was a baby, so I don't remember it," Olivia Mitchell said. "But she's always walking around the house doing it because that's her favorite character."
Seeing her in the role in The Best of Broadway was "pretty cool," Olivia Mitchell added, "because I haven't ever seen her do it on stage."
Paul Hetrick is the president of the Plant City Entertainment Board of Directors.
"It was one of our best efforts to date," he said, about the July production of The Best of Broadway, which came about because the rights to three other shows were not available. "The first three nights were sold out."
Following the closing night show of The Best of Broadway, awards were handed out to the following cast and crew members:
- Holly Turcich, who worked on sets and costumes, received the Beverly Harrison Award, named posthumously for a Plant City Entertainment actress who died in her 20's.
- Tyler Hollis received the Director's Choice award, chosen by director Domin Pazo. Hollis played the role of Shrek and helped with sets.
- The Best Entertainer award for actress went to Maren Fernandez.
- The Best Entertainer award for actor went to Jason Mann.
- The Cast Choice award for a female went to Laura Olney, who helped backstage and with costuming.
- The Cast Choice award for a male went to Tom Mitchell, who served as stage manager and built the sets.