Young Americans perform for sold out audience
By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Young Americans provided a never before seen show to a sold out audience at the Niles High School auditorium on Tuesday night.
The impressive show was overflowing with talent from both the Young Americans and their student counterparts.
The show began right on time at 7:30 p.m. with a welcome from Barb Garrard, principal of Howard Elementary and sister of Young Americans director Bill Brawley.
She thanked the families hosting the 49 Young Americans and asked them to stand up for a round of applause.
Garrard also commented on the "phenomenal" behavior of the students who participated in the program.
The show was made up of three parts and was choreographed by Brawley's wife, Robin. It began with a show featuring the Young Americans and was followed by a student show and then a finale featuring a collaboration of students and Young Americans.
The performance got underway with a routine from the Young Americans troupe that showed off such talents as singing, dancing, rapping and playing instruments.
They got the audience involved early by starting a clap throughout the crowd and even asking a gentleman to stand up and sing along with them.
The program's director and Niles native Bill Brawley welcomed the crowd after coming to the stage to lead a number.
He called Niles, "the best city in the world to grow up in."
He explained the Young Americans like to perform a variety of musical styles including jazz, hip hop and classical.
After completing classical and gospel inspired selections, the troupe launched into a medley of popular tunes including "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "Respect," "Great Balls of Fire" and "Stand By Me."
One of the Young Americans came out and announced they would now be performing a medley of showtunes that included everything from the "beloved standards to today's biggest hits."
This medley was basically a highlight film of some of Broadway's best.
It started with a rousing tap dance number to a George Gershwin tune from "Crazy For You."
The medley continued with selections from such musicals as "Seussical: The Musical," "Oklahoma," "Fiddler on the Roof" and the finale "Hairspray."
Brawley came out after the performance and said "Hairspray" was special to the group because the award winning play was choreographed by former Young American and Paw Paw native Jerry Mitchell.
He then brought out the two Niles High School graduates involved with Young Americans, Matt Marshall and Josh Grinnell, who were met with overwhelming applause.
The hour long performance showed these Young Americans are very well rounded and skilled in a variety of different performing arts.
There was a 15 minute intermission before the student performance began.
Their portion of the show started with a very involved percussion number. The students used contraptions with cymbals, garbage cans and garbage can lids to produce a short performance reminiscent of a show like "Stomp."
The fact that these students were able to pull off a complex performance like this after attending a two day workshop was pretty amazing.
The enthusiasm of the Young Americans really seemed to rub off on the students, who were smiling the entire performance.
During a jazz inspired piece, the students performed scat singing, in which they use their mouths to try to sound like different musical instruments.
They followed this with a medley of music by The Beatles including "Yellow Submarine," "Come Together" and a verse of "Let it Be," that featured the outstanding vocal talent of one of the female students.
They ended the student performance with another medley of popular music featuring "Men In Black," "Stayin Alive," "We Will Rock You" and a handful of other memorable tunes.
The evening's musical finale was a Disney-themed spectacular put on by both the students and the Young Americans.
They cycled through "The Jungle Book," "Little Mermaid," Aladdin," "Mary Poppins" and "The Lion King."
Brawley came out after the performance and said "aren't you proud of your kids. They learned all of that in two days."
He then announced there would be a few surprises to end the evening.
Brawley called a Young American named J.T. to the stage.
J.T. said "this whole thing is about teaching, we teach your kids and they teach us."
He awarded a medal to a young student participant named Brendan to signify his appreciation of the student's attitude throughout the workshop.
There was also an emotional moment in which one of the student's gave a medal to her father for teaching her "not only to see with my eyes, but also with my heart."
Another student recognized her grandmother with a medal.
The final surprise came when Brawley brought his sister Barb Garrard forward to receive a special painting that was done by some of the students participating in Young Americans.
The show was a little over two hours and wrapped up just before 10 p.m.
The Young Americans finished up their tour stop in Niles on Wednesday with a performance for area 4th, 5th and 6th graders at 9:45 a.m and another show for the public at 7:30 p.m.