December 22, 2014
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Royal children find time for stage & school
GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER: Allison Mahoney, who plays the role of Anna Leonowens, leads the cast of children in singing “Getting to Know You.”

Calista Heart Aguinaldo, Chloe Deveney, Abigail Rain Heiser, Jonah Heath King and Connor Buonaccorsi are all royal children. Well, practically all of them are royals. The exception is Connor who plays the role of Louis, the son of Anna Leonowens.

The show is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” that opens tomorrow at the Ocean State Theatre Company and runs for 23 performances through May 19.

That’s a lot for these kids between the ages of 7 and 12. But they were undaunted by the prospect of performances in addition to school during a joint interview following rehearsal Saturday. If anything, they were impatient for the curtain to rise and to get on with the show.

Calista of Warwick, the youngest, is a first grader at St. Rose of Lima School. She has the least amount of exposure to the performing arts, although she has appeared in her school’s production of Annie Jr. She plays the piano and attends Carolyn Dutra Dance.

Calista’s answer to what she especially likes about being in the show was meeting other people and making friends.

Jonah, who is a sixth grader at Oak Lawn Elementary School in Cranston, admits his immersion in the show has made for some funny moments at school where people have yelled at him for humming tunes like “Getting to know you” while walking the corridors. Jonah is no stranger to the limelight. He’s appeared in Trinity Repertory’s “A Christmas Carol,” the Stadium Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast” and productions of “Richard III,” “Thirteen” and “Into the Woods.”

When it came to a question of pay – the kids all make $50 a week – Jonah beamed and imparted the news he makes more than his brother, who is 4 years older.

The prospect of money and fame also appealed to Connor, a sixth grader at Cranston’s Orchard Farms Elementary School.

When his name is in the lights, he speculated, some of those classmates who now make fun of him for being interested in the theater would probably be coming to him for loans.

Connor’s statement that classmates bully him for his involvement in the theater – he played Kurt in the OSTC production of “The Sound of Music” last summer in addition to appearing in Trinity Rep’s “A Christmas Carol” – got nods from the other kids.

But that hasn’t stopped them. They also were ready to take on the criticism during rehearsal.

OSTC Producing Artistic Director Aimee Turner knows what she wants and makes it clear.

“The goal of this is to be perfect,” she said as the cast went through a scene for the fourth time. The show’s director went on to give the good and the bad news. The bad news was the dancing was not the best. The good news was that the segment was the best so far. She gave it a rating of 7.5 out of a possible 10. Everyone seemed pleased.

“We want to be 10,” she said.

There’s little doubt that Abigail “Abby,” who is a student at Ferri Middle School in Johnston, wants to be a 10. In addition to her interest in theater, she is a figure skater, runs track and plays the trumpet. She has appeared in productions of “Annie,” “Oliver!” and “Number the Stars.”

She likes her experience at OSTC because it is “more professional and more exciting.” She said she loves the theater because “you can get away; like being set free; let out of a cage.”

That’s not on the mind of Chloe of Cranston who is a third grader at Moses Brown. She likes dancing and is preparing for a performance at Walt Disney World.

“This is fun work,” she said. Her biggest fear is messing up during one of those 23 performances.

With musical direction by John Jay Espino, the cast also includes Christopher Swan as The King of Siam, and opera singer Alison Mahoney, who appeared as Sister Margaretta in OSTC’s production of “The Sound of Music,” in the role of Anna Leonowens. Hyemi Kim, originally from Seoul, Korea, makes her OSTC debut in the role of Lady Thiang. JP Sarro, who appeared in previous OSTC productions of “Hairspray” and “Man of La Mancha,” returns in the role of The Kralahome, and Shawna Haeji Shin, originally from South Korea, will appear in the role of Tuptim.

Following previews this Wednesday and Thursday, all other performances will be held Wednesday (except May 8 and 15) through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Conducting Conversations Live!, a free post-show discussion hosted by WCRI’s Mike Maino, will follow the 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, April 27.  

The theatre is located at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick. Tickets are $39 for preview performances and $39 to $54 for all other performances. Discount rates for groups of 20 or more are available by calling 921-1777 x112. “Rush” tickets are available for $25 on a limited basis one hour prior to curtain on the day of the performance. Tickets are on sale at the box office Tuesday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., and from noon until curtain on performance days. Tickets are also available online at www.OceanStateTheatre.org and via telephone during normal box office hours by calling 921-6800.


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