Young singers had the chance to become part of Jodi Benson’s world by auditioning to be a part of a chorus that will perform with Benson when she visits the State Theatre next month.
Benson, more commonly recognizable as the voice of Ariel in the Disney classic “The Little Mermaid” and Barbie in “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3,” will perform both Disney and Broadway classics at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at the State Theatre.
Benson has also appeared in live action films, like “Enchanted” and has made her mark on the Broadway stage, earning a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the musical “Crazy for You.” Her Broadway talent will be reflected in the first half of her performance when she sings some showtune hits.
Singers between the ages of 6 and 18 had the chance to audition Sunday between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. for a spot in one of two choruses that will perform with Benson. Though there were over 100 who tried out altogether, groups of ten at a time lined up on the State Theatre’s main stage and sang a cappella versions of “Happy Birthday” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” while their parents cheered them on in the audience.
“Sing loud!” and “You’re going to be singing with a Disney princess, look happy!” were two of the phrases Richard Biever, executive director of the State Theatre used to encourage the auditioners as they performed.
There will be two choruses of 50 singers, one for each performance. Biever said he hopes to send out the list of who made it through by tonight. There will be three rehearsals in the time leading up to Benson’s performance: two rehearsals where singers will learn the music and a dress rehearsal with Benson herself.
During the performance, the chorus will accompany Benson with the opening song, “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” as well as “Circle of Life,” and the closing song “Let There be Peace on Earth,” Biever said.
Thomasin Schinder, 11, came from Boalsburg and has been singing “since she could talk,” she said. Though she explained she is not a princess enthusiast, she loves to sing and loves Disney.
She is involved with Singing Onstage, a musical theater organization based in State College and run by Richard and Heidi Biever, which is how she heard about the audition. She already has front row tickets for Benson’s performance.
Anna Zaccaria, 11, has had experience performing for large crowds by performing “God Bless America” and the national anthem at State College Spikes games.
Zaccaria said she has been singing since she was 2 and said she would be excited about “meeting a star” if she makes the chorus.
“I’m a big fan of ‘The Little Mermaid,’” Katrina Cole, 11 said after auditioning with her brother, Christopher, 8.
Both fans of the movie, they said they were nervous and excited for the day but said the audition was good. Both are also involved with Singing Onstage.
Heidi Biever has previously worked with Benson, and is excited for the opportunity this gives those who auditioned.
“There are so many children in this town who can sing well, and it’s special for the children to have the opportunity to sing with her,” she said.
She said Benson does not usually come to towns this size and said having the chance to sing with her is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Richard Biever also said this is a rare opportunity and commended those who came to the auditions.
He said getting up on stage to audition takes courage, as well as self-discipline and determination. He also said performing in groups was a way to give the kids more confidence by not singing alone.
“It’s a big step forward to say ‘I want to do this’ and then actually follow through with it,” he said.
Tickets for Benson’s performance are already on sale.