It was a
Tuesday about 4:30 in the afternoon. In a garage-turned-studio,
10th-grader Nigel Huckle jumped from side to side, singing
and watching his moves in front of a wall-length mirror.
in unison, six girls rolled on the hardwood floor, did
push-ups and flexed their legs to accentuate the lyrics
Nigel sang, all in sync with notes emanating from a
the time warp again!" the teenagers belted out, invoking
a line from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Kevin Jones pounded enthusiastically away
at the keys. He alternated between playing the instrument
and choreographing the teenagers, all from Roanoke Valley
high schools. They're students at the Kevin Jones
Performing Arts Studio.
such a wealth of talent in our valley," said Jones,
who converted the garage at his Southwest Roanoke County
home into a 500-square-foot studio. He opened it in
2001, at first in the dining room of his former Roanoke
of teens has been practicing hard for their big night:
Saturday, they'll put on a 75-minute show, "Broadway
Rocks!" at Jefferson Center's Shaftman Performance
Hall. The show features 22 numbers from rock musicals
such as "Rent," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Grease,"
in addition to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
be a total of 17 teenage performers in the show, and
they will be doing the numbers back-to-back, with no
intermission, Jones said. "The Time Warp" routine will
be one of the most daring acts, featuring saucy lyrics
to be funny and interesting to see how our audience
reacts," said Ashley Montgomery, a sophomore at Salem
plays the lead role in "The Time Warp," is also psyched
about the performance.
I wasn't featured as much as this year," said the Hidden
Valley High School student. Nigel will appear in 12
numbers. "But this year, it's going to be awesome. Rock
musicals appeal to a large audience."
be Jones' fifth consecutive year of presenting a free
show at Jefferson Center, and each has had a different
musical theater theme. Jones said so many people --
more than 900 -- came to the show last year that he
had to turn some away.
been word-of-mouth over the years," Jones said of the
show's popularity. "It's as professional as you can
get, I think, with teenagers anywhere."
the performance space at Jefferson Center for $1,000
on the day of the performance plus equipment and labor,
said Rob Bessolo, production manager and technical director
at the venue.
out of his way to make it as professional a show as
possible, to really show his kids that's how it's done,"
said Bessolo, who builds the set for Jones' annual show.
He has known Jones for more than a decade, from the
time they both worked at Mill Mountain Theatre. "It's
always good to work with Kevin."
it costs him between $750 and $1,000 to have Bessolo
build the set (which has nine main components this year)
and about $1,000 to build and obtain costumes. Jones'
wife, Melia, an actress and artist, paints the sets,
handles the costumes and designs all the posters for
the annual show, Jones said. The teenagers' parents
the show's budget is $16,000. Jones said he has raised
the money through private and corporate donations for
his nonprofit organization, Opening Doors, which he
started in 2004 to make the Jefferson Center performance
not only possible but also free.
accessible theater to everybody," Jones said. "It was
all part of my vision, and it's great to see it come
was born in Canada. He has lived in New York City and
toured the world as a musical actor. He ended up in
Roanoke, where he worked as the musical director for
Mill Mountain Theatre from 1996 to 2001.
Jones invested more than $20,000 into building his current
studio, which is strewn with colorful costumes, photos
and thousands of folders containing musical scores.
It's conveniently located at his house so he can be
close to his wife and two young children during lessons
and rehearsals, he said.
the studio makes up a large part of Jones' income, which
also comes from acting work in commercials, organizing
summer camps and being director of Arnold R. Burton's
School of Performing Arts, where he conducts the larger
rehearsals for his annual show.
"I was amazed
at their interest and desire and passion to learn,"
Jones said of the young performers.
must audition to get into Jones' ensemble and be in
high school. Many, like Nigel and Ashley, stay for consecutive
years, Jones said.
I'm training them so they can continue their studies
in theater after high school, and many do," said Jones.
"I'm teaching all aspects of musical theater. I pull
from real life experiences; that's how I direct."
follow his directions avidly and seem to be at ease
in their performances. Tuition costs $225 a month for
each student. It covers lessons, which take place once
a week when they're not rehearsing for the show, professional
head shots, any sheet music and compact discs needed
and lectures by guest artists, some of whom come in
from New York City, Jones said. The students also participate
in Christmas performances and, for an extra charge,
can go on out-of-state field trips.
program runs the length of the school year and becomes
grueling in January, during three weeks packed with
four to five days of rehearsals each week -- including
a seven-hour day on Sundays -- for the February show.
but it's still fun -- and on the night of the show,
it all pays off," said Nigel, 15, who has performed
at Mill Mountain Theatre.
Nigel enjoys performing, he has doubts as to whether
he'll pursue an acting career, deeming it unstable.
Fellow performer Gina Laguzza, a junior at Lord Botetourt
High School, said she agrees that "it's really hard
to get jobs in acting," because hundreds of people audition
for the same parts and "a bunch of people look like
who has performed since age 9, said she does want to
become a professional actress. She has landed roles
in Mill Mountain Theatre productions and keeps auditioning
like making people laugh and have fun," said Gina, 16.
"I'm an entertainer. ... And you get all this attention.
||Majored in music at the University of Western
Ontario; musical theater performance certificate
from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy,
New York City
|On growing up:
||"I was always into piano. But I didn't do
anything [as far as theater]. I was a late bloomer."
||Toured with "Annie Get Your Gun;" he performed
in seven European countries, including Germany,
Austria and Holland. He performed in Korea with
“Annie”; and Performed and worked as an actor
and musical director at theaters across the
||"Quad-threat," given by a producer in Pennsylvania
because Jones can sing, dance, act and play
||Married to Melia Jones for 10 years; children
Miranda, 7, and Noah, 3
||Started coming here from New York City in
1996 temporarily as the musical director for
Mill Mountain Theatre productions; moved here
in 1997; says he likes Roanoke's panoramic views
and its quality of life.
||"I love the thrill and the passion of live
theater. You have to be on top of your game,
because there are all these people in front
of you. I love how every performance is a bit
different. It's the exhilaration you can't get
www.kjpas.com "Broadway Rocks!"
||Shaftman Performance Hall at Jefferson Center
||Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
||Free; first come, first served