‘Gotta dance’ Easy Street preps Powers dance revue
Easy Street preps Powers dance revue
Easy Street Productions brings a cast of more than 100 dancers, singers and Little Rascals to Powers Auditorium next weekend for “Gotta Dance.”
For choreographer Megan Cleland, it was a chance to do the kind of show that first brought her into the Easy Street fold.
“When I was 16, I started dancing with Easy Street, and one of the first shows I did was one of these revue shows, and it was one of the big reasons I fell in love with musical theater,” she said. “It kind of opened my eyes to a lot of Broadway shows I didn’t know were a thing.
“We’ve done a lot of big musicals, but I wanted to showcase the dancers who come back to Easy Street every single year. I’ve been choreographing for 13 years now, and it’s so wonderful for me to see this. For the Christmas show, I had 100 dancers come to audition, and I wanted to showcase just how big of a family this is.”
Cleland started reaching out to Easy Street dancers past and present to see if they would be interested in doing the show and approached Easy Street founders Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins with the idea.
“Todd was pretty much on board right away and Maureen, too,” Cleland said. “They really wanted me to be able to do this.”
Cleland started crafting the program by reaching out to fellow dancers and dance teachers and asking them for their favorite musical numbers.
“I made a giant list of every number they gave me,” she said. “I stated nixing some the ones I felt were repetitive. And also things like, Brendan Boyle, who has been in a bunch of Easy Street shows and has been my friend for the last 15 years through Easy Street, I knew he would be a perfect Bert from ‘Mary Poppins’ to do ‘Step in Time,’ to do ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’
“I went through and thought of who would be best to perform these numbers singer wise and then, can we pull of the costumes? Does it work on a stage that doesn’t have a set? Something like ‘Gaston’ from “Beauty and the Beast,’ isn’t in the show because it needs a bar scene. Certain numbers need a set while other numbers work on a blank stage.”
The Easy Street Little Big Band, led by Don Yallech, will be the center of the stage and will be flanked by screens on each side that will feature projections that help set the scene and create the mood for the different numbers. Cleland said it will be similar to the way Easy Street staged the musical “Matilda” and how it presented its collaborations with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.
Hancock and Collins will serve as hosts for the performances and the featured vocalists will include James McClellan, Colleen Chance, MaryJo Maluso, Katy Collins, Candace Campana, Robert Kozar and Boyle, along with returning Easy Street veterans Rosie Jo Neddy and Natalie Kovacs, who both live in New York now.
“Rosie Jo Neddy said she hasn’t been on the Powers stage in years” Cleland said. “She misses the smell of it. It’s a special group of people.”
“Gotta Dance” will showcase a wide range of dance styles, from the 1920s setting of “Singing in the Rain” to the disco era and from musicals associated with such renowned choreographers as Jerome Robbins (“West Side Story”) and Bob Fosse (“Chicago,” “Cabaret”).
“I really tried to keep everything in the style of the original choreography with my own little style in it,” Cleland said.
There also are numbers that have a special significance to Cleland and the cast. Rick Blackson wrote “Love to Watch Them Dance,” which will be performed as a tribute to David Jendre, an actor and dancer who did several shows with Easy Street and worked as a director and choreographer at Youngstown Playhouse. He died in 2020.
The second act opening number, “The Jellicle Ball” from “Cats,” also is a favorite of Cleland’s.
“Just being in it and rehearsing it, I get goosebumps,” she said.
Because spring is a busy time for dancers with shows and competitions, Cleland knew if she wanted to do a revue called “Gotta Dance,” it would have to be in the fall. But she’s now working with dancers for this show at a time when she normally would be preparing her dancers for the holiday production “Miracle on Easy Street,” which returns to Powers Dec. 15 to 17.
“I’m losing about 50 hours of rehearsal for ‘Miracle,'” Cleland said. “The only reason it’s going to be OK this year is 97 percent of the dancers from last year are returning. When it comes to doing the Toy Soldiers, it’s not teaching top to bottom. It’s putting kids where they were last year and adding one or two new girls in it.
“Fall was the only time to do it, and it felt like the right time with the right group. And it’s the right time for Easy Street. We haven’t done a big show, other than the Christmas show, since the pandemic. So we’re just jumping into this full force, and I think it’s really going to be special.”
If you go …
WHAT: Easy Street Productions — “Gotta Dance”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 5
WHERE: Powers Auditorium, 260 W. Federal St., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: Tickets are $35 for premium seating and $29 for adults, $25 for students and senior citizens and $19 for children, and are available at the DeYor Performing Arts Center box office, online at experienceyourarts.org and by calling 330-259-9651.