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.