Youth members of Forever Dance Alaska take part in rehearsal Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the Renee Hendersen Auditorium at Kenai Central High School, in Kenai, Alaska, for the company’s production of “Best of Broadway.” (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Youth members of Forever Dance Alaska take part in rehearsal Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the Renee Hendersen Auditorium at Kenai Central High School, in Kenai, Alaska, for the company’s production of “Best of Broadway.” (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Best of Broadway’ puts spin on theater’s biggest hits

‘We’ve been thinking about how it’s so fun to see the show come to fruition’

From “Hairspray,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “The Music Man” to “All That Jazz” and “West Side Story,” music and theater buffs often have a favorite production that stands out above the rest.

For the past three months, the difficult task of compiling all those legendary pieces together for one performance has been the job the producers of “The Best of Broadway.”

The show, which will be performed by members of Forever Dance Alaska in collaboration with the Aurora Dance Company, opens to audiences this weekend for a two-night affair.

Forever Dance Alaska owner Darcy Swanson said the excitement of the final show caps a flurry of activity that began during the winter holiday season. In all, Swanson said 49 youth dancers will take the stage this weekend.

“We’ve been thinking about how it’s so fun to see the show come to fruition,” Swanson said.

The show opens as the Aurora Dance Company’s annual showcase. Swanson has owned Forever Dance Alaska with her husband Aaron since the company moved from Vergine’s Dance Studio in Soldotna. Swanson said the idea of putting together a Broadway-themed show that combines many of theater’s greatest hits began several years ago.

Swanson said she and her choreographers decided to finally take the plunge in spring 2019.

“We thought, ‘This is the year to do it’,” Swanson said. “We have the staff and dancers to do it justice.”

The show includes 21 total dance numbers, with hit songs such as “On Broadway,” “Pure Imagination,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and more modern tunes from the hit show “Hamilton.”

Swanson said the selections were made based on audience familiarity but also to introduce the dancers — some still in grade school — to the tunes that have made theater what it is.

“Broadway is a pretty daunting task to take on,” she said. “There’s so many iconic and legendary pieces out there, so this is a way to inspire the younger dancers with this generation coming on up. Many don’t watch musicals any more, or aren’t experiencing it anymore … this is a way to inspire them to learn more about why these are iconic pieces that have stood the test of time.”

The show will have a rapid-fire flow to it, with musical pieces seamlessly transitioning into the next. Swanson said the production incorporates many styles of music and theater, from hip-hop to contemporary and ballet. It was the job of the show’s choreography talent — Chelsea Caffey, Clayton Cunningham and Kacia Oliver — to find a way to seamlessly combine the show’s wildly varying styles.

Caffey directs the hip-hop/contemporary pieces; Cunningham plays piano (among his other roles) on the “Phantom of the Opera” number “Music of the Night,” and Oliver coordinates the tap and jazz numbers.

While Caffey and Cunningham hail from outside Alaska, Oliver is a Soldotna local who began her dance career at Vergine’s Dance Studio.

Swanson praised the help of several featured guests, including SoHi senior Allison Towell, Justin Ruffridge, Chris Pepper and Spencer McAuliffe. Those who hold ties to the Kenai Performers organization will make a big impact on several of the pieces, Swanson said.

“It’s a labor of love for the (Aurora Dance Company) showcase,” she said. “It’s our best show by far, and the level of talent and production that goes into it is great.”

“Best of Broadway” will be performed Friday and Saturday nights this weekend. Both performances begin at 7 p.m. at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School. Tickets are $15.

More in News

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River dipnetting closed; Kasilof to close Sunday

The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is reportedly slow, but fish are being caught

Silver salmon hang in the Seward Boat Harbor during the 2018 Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo courtesy of Seward Chamber of Commerce)
Seward Silver Salmon derby runs Aug. 13-21

Last year’s derby featured 1,800 contestants competing across eight days

Rayna Reynolds tends to her cow at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Animals take the stage at 4-H expo

Contestants were judged on the quality of the animal or showmanship of the handler

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)
AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
All about the salmon

Fish, love and music return to Ninilchik

Alaska State Veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach gives a presentation on Avian Influenza Virus at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to outreach, education amid bird flu outbreak

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is spreading in Alaska

Fencing surrounds the 4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. Demolition will begin in August 2022 on the once-opulent downtown Anchorage movie theater designed by the architect of Hollywood’s famed Pantages Theatre. The 4th Avenue Theatre with nearly 1,000 seats opened in 1947, and it withstood the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Efforts fail to save historic Anchorage theater from demolition

Anchorage entrepreneur Austin “Cap” Lathrop opened the 4th Avenue Theatre, with nearly 1,000 seats, on May 31, 1947

Mimi Israelah, center, cheers for Donald Trump inside the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska, during a rally Saturday July 9, 2022. Two Anchorage police officers violated department policy during a traffic stop last month when Israelah, in town for a rally by former President Donald Trump showed a “white privilege card” instead of a driver’s license and was not ticketed. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Alaska officers violated policy in ‘white privilege’ stop

The top of the novelty card reads: “White Privilege Card Trumps Everything.”

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion file 
Alaska LNG Project Manager Brad Chastain presents information about the project during a luncheon at the Kenai Chamber Commerce and Visitor Center on July 6.
Local leaders voice support for LNG project

Local municipalities are making their support for the Alaska LNG Project known

Most Read