Kyle Thurmond Heads Up The Broadway Experience
By Kerri Regan
Take a Bow
By Kerri Regan
Photos by Manda Reed
With faith, trust and pixie dust, Redding native Kyle Thurmond will bring a little bit of Broadway to the North State this spring, with the help of about 40 ambitious young performers.
Thurmond and the Redding School District are gearing up to present “The Broadway Experience” on May 5 and 6 at Sequoia Middle School. An actor, stage performer and musical theatre teacher in Southern California and the North State for about 15 years, Thurmond and his identical triplet brothers are best known for their work with the Walt Disney Company playing Peter Pan.
The ensemble includes second- through eighth-graders from each of the district’s schools, who have been practicing after school for months. “I wanted to give Redding School District the best Broadway experience possible,” Thurmond says.
The show features songs from “The Wiz,” “Mamma Mia,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Peter Pan,” “Oliver,” “The Sound of Music,” “Hercules,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Fievel Goes West” and “Hairspray.” Short skits serve as segues between acts. “Integrating more acting has been great for this production because it’s brought confidence out in a lot of kids that are usually really shy when it comes to speaking in front of the classroom,” says Thurmond, who wrote the scripts, selected the music and serves as both director and choreographer.
“We’re proud of our support for the arts, but we didn’t think we were doing enough in the way of dramatic productions,” says Redding Elementary School District Superintendent Rick Fauss. “Kyle has the unique ability to get the most out of kids by combining drama and dance with musical expression.”
The Thurmond triplets – Kyle, Clayton and Matt – will perform “Climb Every Mountain” during the show. They were inspired by watching Barbra Streisand and Jamie Foxx sing it live as a duet, and “I thought the song was fitting for us, because all three of us are in different areas in our lives,” Thurmond says. Clayton is one of the leads in “Follies” in Los Angeles, and Matt just finished “Rudolph” at Madison Square Garden.
Lights and sound are under the direction of Louis Hudson, who also helps with the youth performing arts program Kids Unlimited – to which the Thurmonds devoted many a childhood summer. Stage manager is Stacy Forman.
Thurmond credits Kids Unlimited founder Dawn Hess for providing him and his brothers with invaluable performing opportunities. “We’re still reminiscing about Kids Unlimited 30 years later,” he says.
For “The Broadway Experience,” the cast is learning how up-and-coming stars conduct themselves. “I'm very structured,” Thurmond says. “I'm teaching them how to act behind the scenes, in rehearsals, backstage, on stage. Nothing comes without hard work, and nothing comes without practice.”
They’ll be doing a car wash to raise money for their cast party.
“It’s not only great to teach them theatrical work ethic, but it’s great to teach them how to work for something fun,” says Thurmond, who recently guest choreographed “Peter Pan” and “Mary Poppins” at the Cascade Theatre.
“I tell the kids, ‘My hope and wish for you guys who really want to perform is that you leave Redding and do things even bigger than I’ve done. Hopefully I’ll get an email from you that says, “Kyle, I’m making my Broadway stage debut. Can you come and see it?”’ It’s cool to be able to work with kids who are passionate,” Thurmond says.
And although it’s been plenty of hard work, the payoff is soon to come.
“It's going to be worth it when they’re center stage under those lights in front of a live crowd,” Thurmond says. “There's nothing like it. When my brothers and I did ‘Peter Pan’ three summers ago, we never thought we were going to be wearing original Broadway costumes on an original Broadway set, performing in front of 10,000 people a night… that’s probably the most magical feeling I've ever had as a musical theater performer. That's what I want to bring to these kids.”
“The Broadway Experience”
May 5, 7 pm; May 6, 2 pm
Sequoia Middle School, Redding
Tickets: $5 for adults; Free for students 17 years old and younger
Tickets available at Redding School District Office in advance or 30 minutes before each show at the door
Flash photography and video recordings prohibited