June 25, 2005 – John Gutierrez, new marketing director for Sunshine Mall, said Saturday night he was just "blown away" by the talent he was seeing displayed by St. Croix youngsters.
He had just watched youths, 13 to 19, performing numbers from "Remember Where You Come From" at a fund raiser for Center Stage at St. George Botanical Gardens.
About 120 people attended the event – A Night to Remember. The evening, not only featured the students, but also award-winning, Broadway performer Lillias White. White, who will be playing in "Remember Where You Come From," sang songs of Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and others. She had the crowd laughing, clapping and hollering as she performed a version of Smith's "Big Fat Daddy."
But the night was about the youngsters. Judi Fricks, who performed a number with J. Todd Howell, another Broadway veteran, said she and her husband had been working the previous year on anti-crime initiatives when she decided it was more important to reach the St. Croix youngsters before they became involved with crime and that is why she was now involved with Center Stage.
Madeline McCray founded St. Croix Center Stage four years ago in hopes of drawing talented young Crucians into the performing arts. She is still the driving force behind the organization. She said Center Stage is planning to take 10 young performers from St. Croix to New York at the end of July and then put on four days of performances of "Remember Where You Come From" written my McCray and Timothy Graphenreed. She said the venue will be determined by how much money the group can raise.
Tables were set up along the entrance to the event. Attendees were given opportunities to make donations or pledges. They could also purchase buttons designed by students showing the Three Queens of St. Croix.
The musical, set half in St. Croix and half in New York, presents many historical, Crucian figures including D. Hamilton Jackson, Edward Blyden and General Buddhoe.
McCary said, "We want the people to see that many people worked hard and made huge sacrifices so they can be where they are today."
In the play a young Cruzan wins a talent contest and heads to New York to live her dream. However, living dreams is never easy, especially when nothing is as it seems. McCray, who also plays a part, says the musical is a story within a story.
She also says it is a bit of a "cultural exchange" program.
The five New Yorkers performing in the production will come down a week before the trip to New York and rehearse with their counterparts on St. Croix.
St. Croix residents will be able to see the full production on July 29 at the Educational Complex before it is taken to New York.
McCray said she first came up with the idea for this production in 2001. For the last year it has been a work in progress – with students studying it and performing parts of it.
The young singers Saturday performed six of its 18 numbers in the production. They included "Why Do So Many People Lie" "Big Picture," and "Be Myself."
The student cast includes Chantal Harrigan, Christalia D. Marks, Julio Petersen III, Cati James, Trevor Nelson, Stephanie Nelson-James, Amaris Chew, Jael Browne and Matthew Thomas.
For information call 772-0712.
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