At first, Aja Baitey had her doubts about joining the male chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
But the Morristown eighth-grader is finding that life as a Biblical brother has some advantages.
“I didn’t know how it would be, singing with guys,” said Aja, one of 73 young performers in the Mayo Performing Arts Center’s first original stage production. “It’s not that bad. I get special treatment!”
Aja plays Zebulon (“It sounds like a pill!”) in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, which adapts the “coat of many colors” story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis.
Schools and amateur production groups have successfully done this show more than 20,000 times, by one estimate. But the Mayo cast was leaving nothing to chance on Tuesday, polishing song and dance routines in preparation for the May 31-June 2 run in Morristown.
Director Cathy Roy and Music Director Darius Frowner tossed ideas back and forth at a piano, fine-tuning bits of songs like a head coach and quarterback adjusting their strategy right before the big game. Huddled round were a handful of teenaged boys, cheerfully answering each revision sung by Aja, dialing it in a tad better each time.
Through it all, Aja appeared remarkably calm and composed.
She already knows about thriving under pressure; this year she won the Frelinghuysen Middle School’s talent show with her performance of Rihanna’s Diamonds. As a sixth-grader, she took third prize with her version of Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae.
Singing since she learned to talk, Aja made her stage debut in Cinderella as a third-grader.
“I like working around here. It’s a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Aja said of the Dreamcoat production.
The Mayo instructors are focused, she said, but “not mean.” And she is familiar with the musical, through her church.
“I like the choreography. I love the melodies, and the people I work with. And I like getting dressed up!” said Aja, who will study dance at the Morris County School of Technology in the fall. Down the road, she hopes to study fine arts at the Berklee College of Music.
Nearby, Joey Walsh, a 16-year-old from Parsippany Hills High School, was waiting for his turn to rehearse dual roles, as Jacob and the comical Pharaoh. He could scarcely contain his excitement.
“I wanted to get my foot in the door with a major production company like MPAC,” he said.
Joey wasn’t pushed by a stage mother; instead, it was his grandmother.
“My grandma loves this show!” he said.
Cathy Roy had the toughest assignment. The Mayo’s education director had to cut about 75 kids who tried out for Dreamcoat.
But she has been busy since March running twice-a-week rehearsals for the lucky ones who passed the audition.
“This is the fun part, when you see all the elements come together,” she said.
Showtimes are May 31 at 7:30 pm, June 1 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm, and June 2 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15.
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