A formerly shy but presently outgoing North Bergen student will parlay her melodic voice and newfound confidence into a workshop performance of “Oklahoma!” off Broadway in New York on July 26.
Rebecca Richardson, 14, will take part in a staged student workshop for the Getting to Know edition of “Oklahoma!” The musical will be released by R&H Theatricals in the future and will be performed by schools and educational musical theater groups around the world, according to Allison Van Etten, a spokeswoman for iTheatrics junior Broadway group.
“What I like most about it is everything,” gushed Richardson, of her opportunity to perform on the big stage. “I’m really grateful I got into this program.”
The workshop is part of the development process of this student version of this musical, according to Van Etten.
“My main goal in life is to be happy – and this makes me happy.” – Rebecca Richardson
Shy at first
Although she has a beautiful voice, Richardson was not originally involved in the school choir program run by Dr. Armine Irving of Franklin School because of her shyness.
“In the fifth grade, she was really shy, so much so that she didn’t want to join,” Dr. Irving said.
Two years ago, in the sixth grade, she took the plunge to get involved.
“I was so scared to do it. [But] something inside just said to do it. It felt right,” Richardson said. “Dr. Irving really motivated me to do it. I was really, painfully shy. She believed in me and I got the courage to join.”
“It was the right timing,” Dr. Irving said.
Hitting her stride
Since joining, Richardson’s star has been on the rise. Last summer, Richardson performed in local community theater, in “Fame Jr., the Musical.” In May, she may have hit her musical zenith thus far, performing her solo “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” at the Franklin School spring concert.
Dr. Irving recognized Richardson’s talent right away, and this year nominated her for the theatrics program, a very selective one.
Up until now, Dr. Irving had nominated four students for the prestigious program, and four had made it. Richardson made it five for five.
“She has a beautiful voice. She’s so expressive. The way she sings is like an adult,” Dr. Irving said. “She has a beautiful, Broadway sound. She really does. She sounds a lot more mature for her age, and she sings with feeling – which is really rare for her age.”
All in the family
It seems like there had been a latent musical interest in Richardson that eventually flowered.
“My uncle was an actor and played the piano,” she said. “I grew up hearing stories about him – and it kind of inspired me.”
A big help to the youngster has been the encouragement of her parents.
“They’re very supportive” said Richardson. “Everything I do they’re behind me. They’re pushing me to do my best.”
“I feel fantastic, and I really appreciate it,” said Gina Richardson, Rebecca’s mother. “I thank Dr. Irving, because if it wasn’t for her, she wouldn’t have this opportunity.”
The New York performance
Richardson is very excited about her new life experience coming up soon.
The rehearsals and final presentation will take place at the 52nd Street Theatre Project/5 Angels Theatre.
Although the performance will not be open to the public, the students will perform for an audience of important Broadway and educational professionals, Van Etten said.
A career? Or just happiness
Richardson hopes this performance, and all of her musical involvement, will lead to bigger and better things. Her goal is to study music in college, and possibly make a career out of it.
“I do want to do it as a professional,” said Richardson, “but my main goal in life is to be happy – and this makes me happy.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.