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St. Petersburg singer in middle school stuns — and wins

John Hopkins Middle student Amanda Puyot, 12, was chosen to appear in Broadway’s Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy on Feb. 3.

Special to the Times

John Hopkins Middle student Amanda Puyot, 12, was chosen to appear in Broadway’s Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy on Feb. 3.


In the wee hours of the morning, Amanda Puyot's mom stirred the sleeping girl from bed.

There was an audition.

"I was tired," Amanda said. "I just went along with it."

Amanda, all 12 years, 5 feet and 81 pounds of her, donned some light eyeliner, flip-flops and a blue sweater that matched her nail polish.

At St. Petersburg's Saturday Morning Market, she smashed a sticker scrawled with the number one squarely on her stomach. She scurried to the stage with the presence of a shy violet.

Then, click.

"Clear the decks! Clear the tracks! You've got nothing to do but relax. Blow a kiss. Take a bow. Honey, everything's coming up roses!"

• • •

Before she could even speak a word, Amanda hummed.

"She was a quiet baby, and very, very good," said her mother, Janella. "The only thing she did was start singing."

By age 3, she could carry on with the entire sound track of the Pokemon movie. When she was 4, her family cruised to the Bahamas. Little Amanda asked if she could enter the ship's talent contest for kids. When she sang the national anthem, her mom said, they really knew.

Amanda had it.

It was a whirl of contests after that. She performed for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Rays, with local Philippine cultural groups, talent shows, at the state fair, a showcase in Las Vegas, the Bay Area Idol contest.

She's all over YouTube, scurrying up and booming to Beyonce or Christina Aguilera or Jennifer Holliday songs beyond her years. She sings in the shower. She sings at John Hopkins Middle, where she's in seventh grade. She sings Broadway songs, mostly Wicked, with a little R&B.

She loves HGTV and Law and Order. She reads historical fiction and Greek mythology and plays piano, guitar and violin. She wants become a cosmetologist, become a lawyer, become a nurse. All of them.

Or maybe she'll sing for a career. Maybe she'll get a manager, take it slow, go out on her own.

Or maybe she'll join a church choir.

• • •

At the market that morning, Amanda beat out 15 others for a featured role in Broadway's Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy when the show opens Tuesday night at the Mahaffey Theater.

"She has a stunning voice," said Neil Goldberg, the show's creator and director. "More so than that, she really has a very calm, mature personality for 12 years old."

At rehearsal, she had the presence of a shy violet, pulling her long sleeves over her fingertips. She might be nervous to perform with the cast, she thought.

But it'll click.

In the show, her character is a little ladybug who turns around to reveal an unexpected booming voice.

Her song is called Surprise.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.

if you go

Mahaffey show

See Amanda Puyot join the cast of Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg. Tickets are $30-$69. Call (727) 892-5798.

St. Petersburg singer in middle school stuns — and wins 02/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 1, 2009 9:27pm]
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