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Students of theater program shine

Add shrewd talent scout to the list of details that describe Ann Reinking, a renowned choreographer and Broadway star.

Her Broadway Theatre Project, a program housed at the University of South Florida since 1991, has joined A-list performing talent and high-level instruction for an intensive three week summer workshop. The results of the study were adroitly and passionately performed in two performances Saturday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa.

This year's group of 169 high school and college-aged students, affectionately dubbed "apprentices," showcased their collective talents in a revue-style recital. The program was an eclectic collection of showtunes, classical ballet and monologues, brimming with youthful pluck and a sense of humor. Some of the variety included a take on Lucille Ball's comedic foibles from I Love Lucy, as well as a scene from Mary Zimmerman's experimental, moralistic odyssey Metamorphosis.

Ripe with a sense of self-parody, the group opted for a loose-canon opener, a number called Take My Advice, written by the students. In it, the teens spilled sagacious bits of showbiz savvy, advice like "Know the show you're auditioning for," or "Always make sure people are laughing with you and not at you."

The audience relished boisterous musical numbers from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, including the jittery Coffee Break, its dancing an apt parallel to the caffeine-addled lyrics. The ensemble-performed Shipoopi from The Music Man delighted with its up tempo rhythm and Americana-themed dancing.

Phil Hamilton's wonderfully rhythmic Phil's A Capella allowed a quartet of male performers to shine. Accompanied by only some drumming, the percussive young men chanted, creating a near-perfect synthesis of voice and dance.

Despite minor technical annoyances such as microphone trouble, the cast found inspiration in group numbers, including a medley from Les Miserables. Despite its economical, austere staging, the piece was richly affecting, drawing soaring vocal performances from its soloists.

Several female performers were granted solos on a medley of pop songs dubbed Ahhhh, Men. The estrogen-soaked romp carried prurient connotations. Performers sung to classics like It's Raining Men and Man. One young woman belted out a sassy, soulful version of the latter.

Dance numbers like the red-hot NYU placed emphasis on the fluid movements that have earned Reinking her famed reputation. The dancing in act one closer Fiesta Fatale was woefully dizzying, frenetic and fun.

Closing number Through the Storm gave one young man a fantastic, soulful solo and ended the performance on a moving note.

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