Beth Benedict has auditioned for shows at The Theatre in the Park “at least 10 times” by her own count, so it’s no surprise that it remains one of her very favorite theater venues.
“If you’re doing a show at The Theatre in the Park you know you’ll have a good summer,” Benedict said.
She was among the 596 performers who auditioned last weekend at Blue Valley High School hoping for a role in one of five Theatre in the Park shows in the 2015 season. “I like ‘Shrek’ but I’ll be happy with anything they give me,” she said. “I sang ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ at my audition.”
Benedict, 28, grew up in Lenexa and is a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School and the University of Kansas. She’s back in the Kansas City area after three years in Santa Monica, Calif., where she worked in television and musical theater. Before going to California, she performed at The Theatre in the Park, Starlight Theatre, Union Station Theatre and Worlds of Fun.
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She had leading roles in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in 2007 and “The Wedding Singer” in 2009 at The Theatre in the Park. She also had the lead role of Elle in “Legally Blonde” in 2012. “Legally Blonde,” her favorite show, was the top draw of The Theatre’s 2012 season.
The Theatre in the Park’s 2015 season opens June 5 with “The Wiz” followed by “West Side Story,” “The Secret Garden,” “Annie Warbucks” and closes with “Shrek.”
Auditioners appeared before the directors of the five shows who select the cast for their particular production. They sang 16 measures of a song of their choice and performed in a dance routine.
Callbacks for all shows except “Shrek” are today at Blue Valley High School. Callbacks for “Shrek” are 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Roeland Park Community Center, 4850 Rosewood Drive, Roeland Park. Cast lists for all shows will be posted online theatreinthepark.org before midnight April 8.
“There are great roles in all of our shows, and the range of ages and ‘types’ for our 2015 participants is really more diverse and interesting than we’ve had in the recent past,” said Tim Bair, producing artistic director. “It gives us the ability to present a really fun show with some pretty amazing production value.”
“We had a great turnout for auditions and lots of faces I’ve not seen in the last couple of seasons,” Bair said. “I’m really happy with the turnout.”
Bair will direct “Shrek,” which is being co-produced by The Theatre in the Park and the Jewish Community Center. “Shrek” will play first at JCC’s White Theatre then move to The Theatre in the Park for the season’s finale. All shows except “West Side Story” are being produced at The Theatre for the first time.
Another veteran performer at The Theatre in the Park, Robert Hingula, 35, auditioned for the 10th time this year. “My goal is ‘Shrek,’” said Hingula, who lives in Shawnee. “It’s the only show I can do this summer because of previous commitments.”
Hingula didn’t audition last year but two years ago was Captain Hook in “Peter Pan.” His favorite shows at The Theatre are “Sweeney Todd” and “The Wedding Singer.” He demonstrated his versatility in 2012 when he played the fiendish, razor-wielding barber in “Sweeney Todd” and later in the season was Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
“I thought my audition went pretty well. I sing better than I dance. I call my dancing ‘a body mover,’” he said with a laugh.
Giana Epps, 14, a freshman at Blue Valley Southwest, also would like a role in “Shrek.” “I’ve auditioned several times and haven’t been taken,” she said. “I did have a callback but didn’t get the part. I keep trying, though. It’s fun.”
Audrey Hartwell, 14, an eighth-grader at Indian Woods middle school, auditioned for “The Secret Garden.”
“I really like ‘The Secret Garden.’ I auditioned for ‘Annie’ in 2009. I just love theater,” she said.
Lance Jewett, 16, a junior at Blue Valley High School, said he was satisfied with the way his audition went. “I thought I sang pretty well. I sang ‘Wonderful.’’
“I’d like to be in ‘West Side Story,’” he said. “I was in ‘Peter Pan’ two years ago and I was selected for ‘Honk’ but had to drop out because of a time problem. Auditioning is good experience,” he said.
Another performer who auditioned for “Shrek” was Sean Connor, 41, of St. Joseph. “‘Shrek’ is the only role I’m interested in. It’s my dream role. I love the show,” Connor said. “I was picked for the cast of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ last year but it wasn’t convenient for me time-wise. I had to let it go.”
Joy Richardson, 46, Kansas City, Kan., has been performing at The Theatre the last six years. “I like “The Secret Garden” but I just love performing. Any show I get is OK with me,” she said. Among shows she’s been in are “Honk” and “Damn Yankees.”
“I especially like the new air-conditioned dressing rooms at The Theatre. They’re the best in town,” Richardson said.
Joell Ramsdell, 48, Overland Park, is another performer who said he’d be happy with any show. “I just love The Theatre in the Park. I’ll take anything they hand me.”
Ramsdell is principal of the Foreign Language Academy in Kansas City. “I taught music for 20 years then went into administration. I usually do one or two shows a year. I just finished ‘Musical of Musicals’ at Olathe Community Theatre,” he said.