Pittsburgh-area teenagers to cut 'Footloose' for the CLO production

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

North-suburban teenagers will cut “Footloose” on the stage at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts during the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's production of the popular musical.

Trent Soyster of Franklin Park, Samantha Lucas of McCandless, Maria Scherer of Hampton Township and Carley Cassandro of Ross Township will be singing and dancing as part of the show's ensemble. They double as students at the Pittsburgh CLO Academy.

“Footloose” runs June 24 to 29 at the Downtown Pittsburgh theater. The musical is based on the popular 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon as a teen who brings dancing back to a conservative small town.

“I know it sounds cliché, but it is such a rush to be on that kind of stage,” said Scherer, 17, who recently completed her junior year at Hampton High School, where she is involved in high school musicals. “The Benedum is such a beautiful venue for musical theater, both the view from the audience and the stage.”

Scherer has performed in previous CLO productions.

“Footloose” was the North Allegheny School District's high school musical in 2013.

Soyster, who played Bickle in the NA production, said while at their core, the shows are the same, there will be differences in how the CLO show is prepared and presented to the audience, compared to the NA production.

“It's funny, because when you are in a show and then go back to the same show a year or two later but with a different company, the same music and lines are said (and) sang, but the show as a whole feels so different,” said Soyster, 16, who just completed his sophomore year at North Allegheny Intermediate High School.

Lucas was in NA's production of “Footloose” as a featured dancer and part of the ensemble. She has graced the Benedum stage with the CLO Mini Stars for the CLO's Gene Kelly Awards program.

“It is breathtaking to be on the Benedum stage,” said Lucas, 16, who just completed her sophomore year at North Allegheny Intermediate High School.

“I love the warmth of the lights and the rush of excitement I get when I set foot on stage. Of course, I get nervous, but I have been performing since I was 6 years old both as a competitive dancer and a singer and actor in school and local productions. I have learned to use my nervous energy to my advantage.”

The show is a dream opportunity for all four, and some hope it serves as a springboard to bigger things. Cassandro, 16, travels an hour and a half each way from her Ross home to Midland, Beaver County, so she can study in the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School's musical-theater program.

“It's a really good experience,” Cassandro, who just completed her sophomore year, said about being in a CLO show.

“Even though we're only in the ensemble, it's all about getting to know people in the business. It's a small business, so every person you meet counts.”

The teens are getting a crash course in a major stage production. Practices were set to begin June 15 and are scheduled just about every day for hours at a time.

“Our rehearsals are held in a very professional and efficient way,” Scherer said. “You are expected to be prepared and focused so that the maximum amount of work can be done. I have learned so much over the years from just watching how professional the older performers are. It's something I have and will continue to look up to.”

Ed Phillips is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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