All-City Variety Show returns to Youngstown
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
Singing, dancing, poetry and competitive cheerleading hit the East High School stage Saturday in the first All- City Variety Show to take place in the city in more than 20 years.
The variety show was a fundraiser for the intramural third- through sixth-grade elementary school sports program that begins this fall. The sports program is a partnership between the city schools and Finer Things Academy Inc.
David Hight, one of the event organizers, said the goal is to raise money for the program while at the same time bringing different generations together in the spirit of fun. Recognizing that generational gap led to the theme of the event “Ole School vs. New Skool.”
“Back in the ’70s and ’80s I used to attend the variety shows, and because of declining enrollment it fell off in the ’90s,” Hight said. “I really think this would be a good way to bring the community together with the twist of old school versus the new school.”
The variety show did bring out the talent in the generation that would remember the annual variety shows years ago as well as the younger people who just wanted to perform.
Kennedi Brazell, 11, Nikea Gaines, 12, Shanaye Williamson, 12, and Alesha Williamson, 13, are a group of sisters and cousins who make up the dance group Skittles.
The pre-teen girls have been creating routines, practicing and dancing together for the last two years, and now they wanted to show larger audiences what they can do.
“We saw everybody else doing talent shows, and we wanted to do some, too,” Shanaye Williamson said.
The group of young dancers, all from Warren, has entered several local talent competitions, including a dance competition in Warren one day before the Youngstown variety show.
There are about 20 girls who make up the competitive cheerleading team Youngstown Community Cheerleaders. The girls range in age from 6 to 21 and have performed across the country.
Instructor Shaun Yancey said the girls in the group are athletes who bring excitement to every competition.
“We get it in. They really are a big deal to watch, and these girls really are athletes,” she said. “We want to give them the confidence and tools to keep them on the straight and narrow.”
The competition included several people who have been through the variety-show experience in the past.
Mike Thomas performed with the dance group Silk but has performed in multiple variety shows in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He said when the variety show was re-introduced, it was an opportunity to have fun doing something he has always loved.
“One of the guys in the group came to me and said, ‘Let’s do it one more time,’ so we decided to do it,” he said. “This is something that we loved and kept us out of trouble.”
Sisters Debbie and Collin Charity performed in variety shows in the late ’70s as members of the singing group Love Creation. They both decided to sing a solo tune Saturday. Each said it seemed like an opportunity to get back on stage and have some fun.
“Mixing the old school with the new school just sounded like a really good idea. We used to compete all the time, and it just seemed like something fun to do again,” Debbie Charity said.
Hight said the idea is to make the variety show an annual event again.
“There is a lot to do in Youngstown, but really no family events, so we want this to be that family event over the holiday weekend,” he said.