In a year with nothing to do, 14-year-old Peyton Fisher never expected to receive a phone call asking him to participate in an upcoming production with Umpqua Actors Community Theatre, but come Friday, he will take the stage with seven other Douglas County youth in “Broadway Bound.”

Fisher will join Kate Miller, Nicole Boehland, Emma Opp, Jenna Fay, Heath Reneau, Jack Cannaday and Owen Miller in a youth musical review of hit Broadway songs from musicals geared towards kids. The 80-minute production will include songs from “Matilda the Musical,” “Mary Poppins,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “James and the Giant Peach” and more.

The songs were chosen with each youth in mind, said director Melody Schwegel. Schwegel is familiar with the talents of all eight kids — each was involved with the youth musical at Jo Lane Middle School last spring before the coronavirus halted not only events with large gatherings, but school as a whole.

“I’ve worked with every single one of these kids. This show was basically tailor-made for these eight individuals,” Schwegel said. “I’ve worked with them before, I know what their vocal ranges are and I knew what they could handle and doing a show in such short amount of time, I knew these kids were up to the task.”

“Broadway Bound” has come together in about four weeks and was originally blocked for an outdoor performance, but with hazardous air quality from nearby wildfires and possible rain in the forecast, the last week of rehearsals were switched to the indoor UACT stage. But that’s OK, most of the kids said, because a little excitement in an otherwise uneventful year has been a nice change of pace.

“It’s 2020 and there is a lot going on with the fire and COVID and acting, singing and dancing is an amazing way to keep people’s minds off of it, with a distraction to get away from it all,” Fay said.

Each has their own drive to perform. For 13-year-old Nicole, it is a chance to put her name out there and explore how acting, singing and dancing can take her into a spotlight she felt was lacking due to being homeschooled the majority of her life. Kate and Owen Miller, 13-year-old twins, say they enjoyed what they learned during school musicals and want to expand that passion. Emma, a 14-year-old freshman at Roseburg High School, says acting has helped her come out of her shell, while fellow freshman Cannaday says this musical has gotten him off the couch and helped him develop his social skills.

“Every kid here brings their own strengths, whether it’s character acting, dance, singing high or singing low,” Schwegel said. “They are so humble and so talented and it is so refreshing to have that. The fact that we have eight stellar musicians among us is just fantastic. I am so excited to see where these kids will go in the next four or five years because they are so talented.”

“Broadway Bound” opens at 7 p.m. Friday, with repeat performances Saturday and Sunday in UACT’s Betty Long Unruh Theatre. The show will be held again Sept. 25-27, with the hopes it will be held on the Umpqua Valley Arts outdoor stage.

Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased both at the door or ahead of time by calling 541-673-2125. Organizers suggests purchasing tickets before attending, as tickets are extremely limited. With social distancing in place, only about 50 people can attend each indoor show. The outdoor performances can comfortably fit up to 100 people while still maintaining the minimum 6 foot distance between groups. Social distancing information and safety policies can be found on the UACT website.

“I hope this shows that even with all this bad stuff happening all around us, that we can still pull together as a community, see something great and still have a chance to smile,” Emma said.

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Community Reporter

Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review, mother of two and a native of Roseburg. She is an alumni of RHS, UCC and Western Oregon University. Contact her at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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