BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Maryn McConnell and Ben Neideck will step into their “Hairspray” roles again as they represent Clarkston High School at the Sutton Foster Ovation Awards, May 11-12.
“I was so excited,” said McConnell, a junior who played Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray.” “I didn’t think I would be selected so it was just crazy to find out Ben and I were selected.”
“I am really excited,” said senior Neideck, who will reprise his role as Seaweed J. Stubbs. “It was another thing on my plate. It’s a cool opportunity because now that high school is over I need to take every opportunity I can get and try other types of performing. I want to go into music education, but I think performing would be cool if I had the opportunity.”
Amy Seaman, who was producer and tech director on the the musical, added she wasn’t surprised they were selected.
“Myself and Mr. (Jeff) Tice are very proud of them,” she said. “They work really hard and they are really good role models for other theater students. They will represent Clarkston well. I am excited because neither one of them have participated before as a performer. It is such a cool event. The state has a lot of talented kids.”
McConnell and Neideck found out they were chosen about a month after they performed “Hairspray.”
“I had been bugging her (Seaman) a lot,” Neideck admitted.
“We were on the edge of our seats for about a week,” McConnell said.
Both will sing a part of a song their character performed during the show. They have another song prepared if they get selected to be in the top three to perform on the Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall stage on Sunday.
Then, a male and female are chosen as winners at the Ovation Awards and will head to New York City. They will perform on Broadway as they compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards.
Both are excited to represent Clarkston at the Ovation Awards.
“It’s cool to represent our small city across the state. I am really excited because a lot of times theater and the arts don’t get to go to a higher level,” Neideck said. “Our sports programs are really good, obviously.”
“We don’t have a championship game,” McConnell added.
Neideck said he is excited to be able to go back in to Seaweed’s shoes.
“I am definitely excited as well,” said McConnell. “It’s going to be fun revisiting Tracy just for a little bit and to see if there are any other people from ‘Hairspray’ performing because that would be fun.”
It is a busy weekend for Neideck as he was also selected for the Michigan Youth Arts Festival and will be participating in the event, May 9.
“It’s really cool,” he said about being chosen. “I didn’t know much about it before I got selected. I knew it could be a possibility I could be selected. I wanted to take the opportunity and send my video in. When I got selected it was cool because we did ‘Les Miserables’ here two years ago so being able to hear the songs again, especially with such a small group of individuals, is really cool because they have strong voices. It’s a really cool ensemble to participate in.”
Neideck began his path in theater when he was a freshman at Clarkston Junior High School when the president and vice president of the drama club visited his choir class.
“They talked about what the show was going to be and what it was like,” he said. “I was so intimidated because they were so much taller than I was. I was so little. But I took a flier. I auditioned and got in. Then, after that I started becoming friends with the older members. I think it was cool because it made me more mature to be around mature people.”
McConnell has been singing her whole life.
“I am convinced I could sing before I could talk,” she smiled. “I have always been doing recitals and singing while growing up. I would sing at our church. They did a play every year I would be involved in. Then, once I got into middle school I could start doing musicals. Ever since then I just do what the school puts on.”
Both plan to continue in music after they graduate from high school.
Neideck is heading to Wayne State University for vocal music education and shared he wants to be a choir director.
“Doing ‘Hairspray,’ preparing for Ovations and going to see a lot of shows this year has really inspired me to think about auditioning for shows before I go to college and maybe tour with a show,” he added. “Then, go to college and become a music director. I am just taking these opportunities like Ovations and the Michigan Youth Arts Festival to go a different route before going to college.”
McConnell added she knows her path includes music.
“I don’t know what I want to do with my life yet, but I do know it will involve music especially singing for me,” she said. “I feel like I might take a similar route to Ben – auditioning for things before college, before jumping into spending a lot of money on college. I would like to at least try and see what it’s like.”
Tickets for the Sutton Foster Ovation Awards at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts are available online at https://www.whartoncenter.com/events/detail/sutton-foster-ovation-awards.