Junior Summer Stock Returns Offering Kids an Opportunity to ‘Raise Your Voice’

July 26, 2023
Junior Summer Stock has returned to the Bedford Recreation Department offerings for this summer. The cast will be performing a show, free and open to the public from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4 at the John Glenn Middle School. Staff Photo

After a four-year break, the Bedford Recreation Department Junior Summer Stock program has returned.

The Junior Summer Stock program has a decades-long history in Bedford, offering children entering grades four through nine the opportunity to spend three to four weeks preparing a full-scale musical production from start to finish during the summer break. 

Junior Summer Stock exposes participants to theater production, auditioning for roles, memorizing lines, learning music, working on singing, acting, improvisational skills as well as learning choreography, blocking, and performing in front of an audience. Participants may also learn set design, costume design, lighting, and sound techniques, depending on the needs of the production. 

This year, 27 performers registered and have been working since the middle of July with the goal of presenting a production of “Broadway Junior Revue: Raise Your Voice” from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4. As is tradition, the public is welcomed and invited to watch the Junior Summer Stock performance in the John Glenn Middle School auditorium. 

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Junior Summer Stock gives students an opportunity to practice and grow skills in all aspects of musical theater production from singing and choreography to building confidence. Staff Photo

The program was put on hold starting in 2020 due to the pandemic and didn’t return in 2021 following the retirement of long-time (29 years) director Amy Budka. Bedford Recreation Department Program Coordinator Nikki Taylor said, “Bringing the program back was one of my and [Recreation Director] Josh Smith’s priorities for this summer. We both know the value of the arts and are so happy to have this performing arts program right here in Bedford.”

JGMS Teacher and JGMS Musical Director Aidan Tatar was brought on as Summer Stock Director this summer, along with Musical Director Kelsey Mack, and assistants Ellie Mitchell and Mary Couveé. 

Mack said the program “introduces younger kids to theater, songs, characters, and choreography.” Some of the most recent productions included “Bugsy Malone,” “My Son Pinocchio,” “Madagascar,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” 

Tatar explained that the Summer Stock program is important not only as a fun and creative outlet for participants, but the summer session also serves as an important development tool for the JGMS and BHS performing arts programs.

“Especially with the pandemic, the majority of sixth graders show up for spring musical auditions who haven’t performed before and now there will be some kids with experience,” said Tatar. 

Mitchell and Couveé, BHS Class of 2022 graduates who both participated in Junior Summer Stock when they were younger, continued participating in performing arts throughout JGMS and BHS, and are continuing their passion for musical theater in college. Both assistants explained that Summer Stock made an impact on them, in part because it was the first time they were given the opportunity to have speaking roles and solos in a production. 

Mitchell, who started participating in Summer Stock in fifth grade, said the program not only helped her “hone” her performing and dancing skills, but the experience really helped grow her confidence as a performer. With great memories and experiences, and recognizing the growth as performers during their time participating in Summer Stock, Mitchell and Couveé are enthusiastic about helping the next group of Bedford performers in the return of the Junior Summer Stock program.    

The directors and assistants all mentioned mentorship and learning from others as big benefits of the Summer Stock program that serves kids ranging in age from 8 to 14 years old who are coming in with a wide range of experience, skills, and talents. Mitchell said many performers have never performed before and they look towards those with experience and pick up skills quickly.

Mack also mentioned how important and successful it is having older and experienced role models around has been this summer. Couveé has been impressed that even the youngest kids stay focused and on task during the program and credits this in part to the older kids serving as tremendous role models. 

This year’s production of “Raise Your Voice,” directed by Aidan Tatar, includes songs from across musical theater genres from classics to modern favorites. Staff Photo

This year’s program runs from 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m. every weekday for three weeks leading up to the final performance, with additional rehearsing expected as homework. Performers stay busy from the moment they arrive with vocal and active warm-ups, smaller group work, and larger group rehearsals. Throughout the day, kids are exposed to singing, dancing, acting, improvisation, timing, teamwork, receiving feedback, and other aspects of performing in and putting on a theatrical performance through games, activities, guided lessons and rehearsing. 

Olivia Lewis, a program participant, and rising ninth grader at BHS, said after focusing more on art and taking part in stage crew for JGMS productions, Junior Summer Stock is their first foray into being on stage. They are really enjoying the program and having fun. Lewis said Summer Stock is “a good introduction to theater,” and they already feel what a “good community” the Bedford performing arts program creates. Like Mitchell and Couveé, Summer Stock will give Lewis their first opportunity to sing a solo on stage in a performance.  

Tatar said offering solos is a highlight of this year’s production. In “Raise Your Voice,” every kid, even the youngest performers who wanted a solo has the opportunity to sing two or more solos. “Raise Your Voice” is a newer revue featuring a collection of 15 songs from MTI’s Broadway Junior collection. The songs range from classic musicals such as “Guys and Dolls,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Singin’ in the Rain” to modern numbers from “Aladdin,” “Little Mermaid,” and “High School Musical.” 

And the directors say it’s a fun show. Mack said the show is a great exposure to different genres in musical theater. Tatar said the format allows kids some freedom for their own individual creativity. 

“It’s really been a lovely summer,” Tatar said. “The talent of the kids bodes well for the future of Bedford performing arts.” 

The Junior Summer Stock production of “Broadway Junior Revue: Raise Your Voice” is free and open to the public. All are encouraged and welcome to attend. The performance will be from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4 in the JGMS Auditorium. The performance will last one hour without an intermission and is appropriate for all ages. No tickets or reservations are needed. 

The 2023 cast of Junior Summer Stock will perform a performance of “Broadway Junior Revue: Raise Your Voice” from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4 in the JGMS Auditorium. The performance is free, appropriate to all ages and the public is invited and welcome to attend. Staff Photo
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