NiCori Teen Performance Ensemble: Moments

Moments is a collection of monologues, songs, and scenes that take a look at the pivotal moments in a person’s life. Each young performer has the opportunity to showcase unique personality and skill while encouraging the values of ensemble. Many of the pieces in this show have been written by cast members and are based on actual events in their lives.
Corinna Sowers Adler

Young theatrical/vocal aspirants from New Jersey’s NiCori Studios huddle in the corridor outside a club room at Don’t Tell Mama, each in a matching logo t-shirt. Nervous and excited, they fold themselves onto wooden benches perhaps running lines.

The teens file in singing Meg Flather’s buoyant “Hold On” as if it was an anthem. Spreading across the stage, emphasizing with synchronized gestures, some surreptitiously look for familiar faces while others seem like deer in headlights.      How many will eventually enter show business is irrelevant to skills, experience, and confidence garnered. Excerpts:

We begin with Overscheduled (Claudia I. Haas), a brief skit performed by Ciara Vargas and Riley Polaner depicting two girls trying to fix a date in their amusingly uber-busy lives.
Ciara Vargas: Cabaret helps me grow as both an actor and person by allowing me to be different characters.
Riley Polaner: Cabaret helps me see different scenes and songs that, on the surface, have no commonality mix and blend into a beautiful masterpiece.         

Top row left to right: Katherine Heyman, Emma Dean, Caroline Leonard, Mia Grossman, Yuleeza Rodrigues
Second row from top Left to Right: Megan Moynahan, Riley Polanar
Third row from top left to right: Andie Earl, Zoe Gelman, Ciara Vargas, Elizabeth Nucci
Front row left to right: Damon Santiago, Cindy Summers (Stage Manager), Corinna Sowers Adler (Director)

Megan Moynahan then sings “Play Rehearsal” (Joe Ioconis). The performer is fetching, but the lyrics too fast. (Many of the young people nervously speed up during monologues which gives them no time to think about what they’re saying. Practice helps.)

The Young and Dashing Princess (Beth Homer) features an independent young woman (the plucky Emma Dean) interviewing princes to be her prospective husband. She’s heard there are three in a neighboring kingdom and rides calump! calump! to the castle. The first, in his bathrobe, answers everything with “I’d have a cup of tea and contemplate the matter.” The second is a reflection of our monomaniacal, misogynistic president.

The third, whom his father tries to hide, “You can’t take him away and leave me with these two idiots!” is discovered reading Hamlet and doing laundry. Guess who the princess chooses? Musical accompaniment including “The Theme from Love Story” is just right; direction, replete with tableaux vivants, adorable. Happily ever after, the two rule benevolently -elsewhere – and attend all their kids’ soccer games. Ta dah!

Moynahan, Caroline Leonard and Mia Grossman perform Christine Lavin’s charming “It’s a Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind” (great choice) Alas, only Caroline makes direct eye contact with her audience.
Megan Moynahan: Cabaret captures a moment that does not exist anywhere else.
Caroline Leonard: Cabaret is a place where I can be myself and do what I love.
Mia Grossman: I get to connect personally with the audience while telling a story.

Just as the tune is over, Damon Santiago (the only male present today) walks by with an insouciant “Hi, ladies.” “Hi- wait, who’s she?!” they simultaneously exclaim. Nifty. Elizabeth Nucci does a fine job with “Blind Date” a cute, winsomely directed skit by Moynahan. ‘Love when her kindergarten admirer smells her.

Though Santiago is not often front and center, Dark Corners (Janet Milstein) depicting a son confronting his violent, alcoholic father, shows acting chops with real teeth. Another serious piece, Pauline, ( Jennifer Tressen), enacted by Katherine Heyman, feels effectively honest. Heyman also writes well. Her very smart Myth of Vanity is performed by Emma Dean as if that actress was expressing her own thoughts. A compliment.
Emma Dean: Cabaret gives me the possibility to connect with the audience and share what we love. 
Katherine Heyman: I love cabaret because it’s a more direct form of storytelling.  I get to break the 4th wall and connect directly with the audience.

Elizabeth Nucci’s “Making Pies” (Patti Griffin) arrives expressive, but seems to go numb during the song’s chorus. While this works internally, we need to see something more. Nucci’s talent is, however, evident throughout the show.
Elizabeth Nucci: Cabaret gives me the comfort and confidence to be who I am and embrace my talents.

Zoe Gellman offers a complete, captivating character in “Why Didn’t You Tell Me?”…you were allergic to peanuts… (Garry Novikoff), Gellman communicates with her audience like a a pro.                                                                                                                 Zoe Gellman: I love cabaret because it makes me feel limitless as a performer.

Andie Earl displays personality and makes eye contact even in group numbers. Cabaret lets me expand my horizons and learn how to become so many different characters.

Olivia Grzwinski: I get to connect with the audience more than other performances.

The afternoon closes with a rousing “Moment Medley” (Frank Wildhorn, Jörgen Elofsson, John Reid) arranged by Musical Director John Conte who’s provided fine symbiotic accompaniment to every iconoclastic performance today.

The show is engagingly put together utilizing literary and personal quotes as footbridges. Enthusiasm abounds. Budding talent is a pleasure to see.

“NiCori is dedicated to educating both amateur and seasoned performing artists. Voice lessons, musical theatre classes, acting workshops, dance classes, and technical theatre workshops are part of the curriculum. Nurturing the whole person is as important as training the instrument. Students meet weekly 15 weeks for 3 hours. The first hour of class is an intense acting workshop, helping students develop theatre skills they will then use to create and hone the piece. The rest is rehearsal time.”

See Alix’s profile on NiCori’s founder Corinna Sowers Adler

Opening Photo: The Company

NiCori Teen Performance Ensemble; Moments
Directed by Corinna Sowers Adler
Musical Direction/Piano John Conte
Don’t Tell Mama
May 20, 2018

About Alix Cohen (812 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.