2013-05-17 / People


Budding actress heads to NYC
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Shannon Howard Shannon Howard Nerves are a necessary part of the preparation process for any actor. They start when a script arrives, intensify through rehearsals and peak just before the curtain is drawn back. Cape Elizabeth actor Shannon Howard has become familiar with that process, but she admitted her first show in New York City has put her on edge more than her previous performances.

“I am really excited, but I always have nerves and the nerves help me. They’re good,” Howard said.

Howard, a junior at Cape Elizabeth High School, left Maine for New York City on Saturday, May 11 to begin rehearsing with a group of young performers she had never met before for “This Way to Broadway,” an annual musical performance for young people held at the 777 Theatre in Manhattan’s Theater District.

Howard was selected for the performance after submitting Youtube links and acting credits to the organizers of “This Way to Broadway.” She learned she was accepted and would perform a solo number last month.

Rehearsal began Saturday, soon after Howard arrived with her family. That afternoon, she recorded a version of the song she would perform solo, “Jimmy” from “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Then, she was joined by another young performer, Marcia Miller of New York, for a duet recording of “For Good,” from “Wicked.”

Sunday, Howard said, the entire group in “This Way to Broadway” rehearsed together for the first time to prepare the group number, “Visions of Hope,” which was performed Monday night, May 13.

All in all, Howard, 17, had less than 48 hours to prepare for the performance, without ever meeting the other performers before the weekend. She connected with Miller through Facebook after both had watched the other singer’s Youtube videos.

Howard said the group is composed of some actors with Broadway experience; among the cast this year is the lead actor in “Billy Elliot,” which ran on Broadway through last year. But Howard said there are also many performers in her situation, young singers and actors from away looking to make an impression on a bigger stage in New York City.

“I think it will be nice to make connections with people who have already been in Broadway for so many years,” Howard said. “I’ll hopefully be able to pick up on some of the things they can tell me.”

The 777 Theatre in New York is on 8th Avenue in between West 47th and West 48th streets, surrounded by Broadway theaters in the heart of Manhattan. Howard said the theater is small and it fits only about 150 people, many of whom were family members of the performers.

Although the show in New York was the biggest of Howard’s career, the 17- year-old already has years of professional experience in musical theater.

I’ve been acting and singing forever, since maybe I was 5 years old. I knew it was what I wanted to do,” Howard said.

Her first major role came in 2005, as Tessie in a production of “Annie” at the Portland Players in South Portland. Howard later went on to play the title role in a production of “Annie Warbucks” at Lyric Music Theatre in South Portland, and as a teenager she played Mary Lennox in a production of “The Secret Garden” at Boothbay Playhouse.

Howard has also been involved in middle school and high school productions in Cape Elizabeth, including “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Cinderella,” and this year’s one-act performance of “Dead Man Walking.”

She is looking at colleges in the New York area to continue pursuing her acting career.

“Being on stage, it feels right. When people are like, ‘I love playing lacrosse, I love being on the field.’ That’s the stage for me. It’s just where I feel like I should be,” Howard said.

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