Featuring high-energy songs and dances, colorful costumes and snazzy sets, Chantilly's Encore Theatrical Arts Project presents the show, "Are We There Yet?"
It will be performed Saturday, June 7, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 8, at 3 p.m., in the Ernst Community Cultural Center on NOVA's Annandale campus. Tickets are $14 for students and senior citizens and $17 for adults; they may be purchased at the door or by calling 703-222-5511.
"It's fast-moving, visually exciting and colorful," said director and choreographer Raynor van der Merwe. "It has grand production numbers — often, with 30 people on stage in spectacular costumes."
Westfield High student Courtney Reed plays a girl who wins a trip to San Francisco and takes her friend, Centreville High's Rachel Dolan, with her. Leaving Boston, their plane hits bad weather and is forced to land in New York. So they get tickets for the Broadway show, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and enjoy the city.
Taking off again, their plane lands in Las Vegas, where the girls have fun in a casino and see a splashy, Vegas show. Next day, they finally reach San Francisco and head for Chinatown.
The different locales give the 35 girls in the show a chance to perform against various backdrops. New York has the city skyline with a bridge across it, Chinatown boasts a big pagoda and Las Vegas features a 16-foot heart that transforms into a wedding chapel.
The locations also influence the costumes. In one of the Las Vegas numbers, the girls are garbed in pink, with elaborate hats and 3-foot feathered headdresses. And in the "Chop Suey" number in Chinatown, they perform as dancing Chinese-food boxes, complete with giant-sized chopsticks.
"The show is new and different," said Abbey Hurlbert, 13, of Centreville's Belle Pond Farms community. "And we don't do the dances just to show our skills, we do them to entertain." Dancing for 11 years, Sully Station's Chelsea Overholt, 13, says dancing allows her to express herself without using words.
She practices six days a week and says her favorite number is "Carnival" because "we're all wearing bright costumes and we get to do unusual steps, like you'd see in a carnival."
Natasha Scearse, 13, of Herndon, likes the Chinatown number, "Fantan Fanny," because of all its authentic, Chinese fans: "They make cool noises, and it creates a really nice picture." And she describes the show as vibrant, with a good storyline the audience will enjoy.
She calls van der Merwe a wonderful choreographer because "out of the blue, she comes up with all these good ideas, props and brilliant dances." Kelsey Carroll, a Stone Middle eighth-grader, says dancing helps her with life's lessons — "like being there for others and helping. You get teamwork, physical fitness and terrific friendships. I'm never going to forget anyone here I've danced with."
Her favorite number is "Grant Avenue" because "it's hilarious, with weird tourists, kooky costumes and people in kimonos." Overall, she said, the show is "really cool to watch and the sets are incredible."
Erin Avery, 14, of South Riding, believes it's Encore's best spring show and praised van der Merwe for urging her students to do their best and strive for a high level of performance. Said Avery: "She treats us like adults and encourages us a lot."
Her sister, Audra, 8, said she likes performing on stage. "It's fun 'cause you get to put on different costumes," she said. Her favorite outfit is the one she wears in the finale because "it's blue and it's sparkly."
Ellie Jackson, 14, of Sequoia Farms, loves dancing because "it lets me be free with my body and it feels great." She especially enjoys the "Carnival" number because of its pretty costumes in blues, greens and purples. She says the most important thing she learned from van der Merwe is "not to ever give up. Keep working, do things full out and use all your energy."
Brittany Martin, a Stone seventh-grader, likes the number, "I Enjoy Being a Girl" because "it's a showstopper and has amazing choreography, costumes and sets." She said Encore produces great shows because "we're like a family and we work together. Raynor makes us work real hard, but it makes us better and we all appreciate it."
Rachel Dolan, 18, says she's learned to be confident in singing, dancing and acting. After graduation, she'll continue dancing at New York's Fordham University and will do an internship with Steps, a professional dance studio. "It's sad leaving Encore," she said. "But I'm also excited and ready to go on."
Courtney Reed, 18, is heading for Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, to study musical theater and maybe someday dance professionally. She said Encore taught her "discipline, to be prepared and at your best in life and to have a professional attitude toward everything." Her advice to aspiring dancers is to "stick with it, even though it may seem difficult managing your time and having a life in high school. It really is well-worth it and will pay off in the end."