Who do you call when you need to cast talented children?
Why, Bill Newberry, of course!
He is the musical director of the children's chorus in the sumptuous Theater of the Stars production of "The King and I" arriving at Wolf Trap this weekend. When he held auditions there in early August, more than 50 talented youngsters from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. answered the call.
"They were all wonderful singers and we could have chosen most of them, but after we heard them all and did some movement work with them, we had to narrow it down to 14" he said. "It was a hard task, but we ended up with a wonderful group [ages] 7 to 13. This will be the first time any of them have performed with professional artists in a venue like Wolf Trap, so they will never forget the experience."
|'The King and I'|
|Where: Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna|
|When: 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday|
|Info: $40 to $80 in-house, $20 to $25 lawn; 877-WOLFTRAP (965-3872); wolftrap.org|
Newberry is casting this production for three TOS venues, the first in Virginia Beach, the next in Atlanta. "The children are a big part of this show because of their relationship to the King and Anna, their teacher," Newberry said. "On Thursday, I work with the kids' songs and blocking cues. On Friday, we begin with a 'put in' rehearsal, only the scenes in which the children are involved. They will be accompanied by a piano, not the full orchestra. After their costume fitting, we feed them, they take a break and are ready to go on stage Friday evening.
"Baayork Lee, the director, has a real heart for this show because she was a member of the original Broadway cast when she was only five years old. She has since starred in 'A Chorus Line' and choreographed a number of other shows on Broadway, for Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center. This is a beautiful production with a gorgeous set and costumes."
Newberry, a native of Atlanta, was born into a very musical family and grew up knowing that he would follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, a conductor in Great Britain. His first position was as a teacher in a private school, but when the opportunity arose to become involved in the theater, he never looked back.
For a year, he traveled throughout the country casting thousands of children for the national tour of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," which played at Washington's Warner Theatre. In addition to his work with Theater of the Stars, Newberry is also music director for Camp Broadway, a summer music project that introduces children to the theater, and he is a vocal coach of many artists, including "American Idol" finalist Diana DeGarmo.
"When I leave Wolf Trap, two parents will be in charge of the children on Saturday and Sunday. This is a wonderful opportunity for the kids that may start some of them toward a professional career. I keep up with a lot of the children I've cast. Many of them are now in college, and others are on Broadway and in national tours. Taking part in shows like 'The King and I' very often makes such a difference in their lives that they are inspired to peek into the business."