A rousing and well-produced song performed by young singers from a Tampa Bay casting and performance group has managed to unite 39 voices in harmony.
You Are Not Alone, written by Katie Combs, director of Bay Area Performing Arts and Casting, was originally part of a play that the group put on about teenagers and social media. Called Filtered, the show was a big hit at last year’s Tampa Bay Theater Festival, where it won Best Musical.
The group of arts students from Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, ranging in age from 8 to 22, normally meets on Monday nights for some instruction and workshops. They also put on productions. They’ve been hired to do a church’s Christmas program, they did Elf as part of the Largo Central Park family programming and they help coordinate entertainment for ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
When Filtered was staged, a filmmaker in the audience, S. Roy Saringo, approached Combs about turning the play into a film. They’re almost finished with the film, which is about isolation and the psychology of teens as they deal with social media.
The show is fairly dark, but its final song, You Are Not Alone, seemed perfect for this time of coronavirus isolation, Combs said.
So she sent the music track to each of the talented kids and told them to put headphones on and sing.
“We just needed their voices. These kids are just amazing singers,” Combs said.
She received 39 videos and voice tracks and sent them off to Saringo, the filmmaker, and told him who was singing when. The next morning he sent her a compilation that singles out kids in duos and solos and a rousing 36-picture finale with all of them singing together and harmonizing.
Anderson Ranson, 12, of Safety Harbor leads off singing, “You hold your head up, you keep your chin up ...” and singer after singer joins in. The song and the play have similar themes to Dear Evan Hansen, whose Broadway cast with lead Ben Platt this week recorded a similar video of them singing You Will Be Found that is soaring on YouTube.
Combs said her research in writing the play Filtered has her very concerned about the isolation everyone is going through right now. Texting is not connecting, she said.
“You can be completely by yourself, but as you long as you have access to others, you are not alone,” Combs said. “When we did research for the play on social media it points back to how people feel like they are connected, but their brain chemistry doesn’t register digital conversations the way it does voices. Just hearing the human voices versus reading it in a text, the chemicals are different."
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The video performance of You Are Not Alone features an adorable 9-year-old named Kia of Safety Harbor, who’s wearing a headset with bunny ears, and Jeffery Walker, 13, of Palm Harbor, who Combs describes as “the Bruno Mars of our group.”
Walker, who attends Carwise Middle School and has performed in an a cappella group at Walt Disney World, said the video was much better than he expected.
“I think the idea is we may be separated,” Walker said, “but we are all in this together, and we are not alone.”
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