Cherry Hill East Singers perform with Broadway legend
Cherry Hill High School East’s elite mixed choir East Singers opened their season with a warm-up for the Great White Way as they joined current Broadway stars and theater legend Chita Rivera onstage at Philadelphia’s Forrest Theatre recently.
Just two weeks after their first rehearsal, the students took part in an invitation-only showcase with the casts of a dozen Broadway musicals, to promote the productions and encourage theatre buffs from the Philadelphia area to spread the word and make the trip to Manhattan for more.
“My heart was pounding so hard watching the scenes from these shows,” exclaimed junior Michal Kortsarts, 16. “The level of skill and talent these casts brought is breathtaking,” agreed junior Alexa Chudzinski, 16.
Rivera hosted with her signature warmth and presence, distilling plotlines and introducing numbers from “Sister Act” to “Spider Man” to the upcoming “Bonnie and Clyde.”
East Singers, the only invited student performers, played a gospel choir in a foot-stomping, hand-clapping pair of showstoppers with stars of the Tony-Award winning “Memphis.” One of the show’s dancers taught the students all the moves to “Make Me Stronger” and “Steal Your Rock ’n’ Roll” the day of the showcase.
“I have a great group of hard-working singers and I knew they would come through,” said CHE vocal music director Laurie Lausi. “The style of this music was different from our usual repertoire in the sense that it required them to really move around and put choreography to the singing. For some of the more reserved personalities, it was a challenge and a growing experience.”
And a good time.
“Usually we just stand and sing nicely,” said senior Jaime Phillips, 17. “This time, we got to dance.”
Senior Rachel Viggiano,17, said she’ll remember the opportunity “to finally connect and jam out to a song and share my joy with an audience.”
Another memorable aspect of the experience was rubbing elbows with established stars who treated the young performers as peers. “We got to work with seasoned veterans of the stage,” said senior Justin Lewis, 17. “It definitely wasn’t amateur hour.”
Senior Lara Abiona, 17, observed how teamwork doesn’t mean fading into the background. “I noticed how, not only the leads, but also the ensemble members had so much character and energy — it showed me that every single person onstage matters and contributes to the success of the performance.”
East Singers will take that energy into their next gig, performing along with all CHE vocal and instrumental groups on Thursday, Oct. 27 in the annual Fall Preview in the East auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The event is free. A complete schedule of performances can be found at www.cherryhilleastmusic.com. Questions about the Cherry Hill East Vocal Department? Contact Laurie Lausi at LLausi@chclc.org.