Regardless of talent or experience, kids ages 5 to 21 who audition will get into the show, director says

Published in the April 12 – April 25, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Now’s your chance, budding Hollywood superstars. John Bisceglie is seeking kids who want to get performing role in a movie.

The longtime director of the Gilroy Children’s Musical Theater will hold youth movie musical auditions in the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center starting 4 p.m. Thursday May 4 for children who might want to perform in “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” his fourth film to be produced and shown locally.

Over the years, hundreds of Bay Area youth came out to audition for the colorful and original feature films Bisceglie produces in San Francisco, San Jose and the South Valley. They offer a fun and unique opportunity for kids, many who have had no prior performance experience, to appear on camera in a full-length movie shown in a professional movie theater at Oakridge Mall. Past filmed include “Gleeful,” a parody of the popular TV series “Glee,” which played for ten weeks in 2012 at Morgan Hill’s Cinelux Theater, “ROAR!” a stylized 1920s black-and-white movie musical that played to sellout crowds at the Castro Theater in San Francisco in 2013, and “Broadway Movie Musical,” which played earlier this year at the Cinemark Century Movie Theaters in San Jose.

“Shake Rattle and Roll” is a 1950s and 1960s-style movie musical set in the fictional Melody High where the children and teen actors perform songs from the Broadway musicals “Grease” and “Hairspray,” as well as croon to rock and pop songs including “Rock Around the Clock,” “Calendar Girl,” and “Sixteen Candles.”

A comedy story Bisceglie wrote helps to tie all the musical numbers together.

“It’s kind of like has them doing school activities and going to the prom and cutting up in class,” he said. “They go to the drive-in movies and the bowling alleys. It’s filled with colorful, over-the-top characters — the nerdy couple and the cheerleaders and the captain of the football team, class president, president of the glee club, and waitresses on roller skates.”

The movie will also have plenty of nods to the pop culture of that gentler era including poodle skirts and hula-hoops, TV shows and movies such as “The Blob.” One scene will feature a TV dance party show much like the iconic “American Band Stand.”

Regardless of talent, age or experience, kids 5 to 21 who audition get into the show, Bisceglie said. They go through 10 weeks of rehearsals held at the Morgan Hill Playhouse Thursday afternoons to prepare for the one-and-a-half week film shoot done during the summer. Cast members record in a professional recording studio and then work with the Gilroy-based 152 West Productions film crew on a movie set with props, costumes and wigs. Using modern technology to incorporate shots filmed on location and a green screen movie set, Gilroy Children’s Musical Theater offers an unparalleled experience to young actors and filmmakers who would like to learn everything that goes into creating a movie. This convenient and exciting 10 week program with only one rehearsal per week is offered in San Francisco, San Jose and Morgan Hill.

152 West filmmakers and Gilroyans Nils Myers and his partner Mattie Myers look forward to their next collaboration with Bisceglie.

“It’s really exciting to be doing a fourth film with John. For me it’s a great creative opportunity, but for most kids it’s a truly once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of something that’s usually just dreamed about, which makes it more exciting and special for me.” Myers said. “We’ve seen John draw out amazing performances from his actors, and he’s always pushing the envelope with the creative process of film making. If you want to get into film and television, this is a great opportunity to hone your skills and build your reel. John’s movies are a great place to start.”

Featuring kids of all ages and levels of training, GCMT’s programs offer the full experience to children who desire to be in a film, from the initial youth movie audition, to the excitement of being cast into a specific role, she said. Throughout the rehearsal process each cast member earns the responsibility of learning and refining a part, feels the thrill of performing, and finally, enjoys the reward of watching the finished product play in local Bay Area theaters.

Gilroy Children’s Musical Theater aims to remove any sense of competition and replaces it with a sense of inclusion, inviting all to participate in a fun and positive atmosphere, an essential quality when learning new skills, Myers said. Each cast member appears in multiple solo, duet, group and ensemble numbers, giving every child plenty to do and fostering a sense of community and teamwork within the cast.

This is the 25th-anniversary year for Bisceglie’s involvement in the Gilroy Children’s Musical Theater. He has done live theater productions with young people on local stages as well as shows in the garlic warehouse at Christopher Ranch and even in a South Valley corn field.

“We started in Gilroy but we’ve really been doing the movie shows in Morgan Hill for the past three years,” he said. “The movies are really popular because they give the kids a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in a movie without having to live in Los Angeles. And then for them to see themselves performing on the big screen of a national chain is pretty amazing. We had great success with the last movie and people were very happy.”

The fee for a child to participate in the film is $295. There are additional costs to rent a costume and wig (up to $45) and purchase dance shoes (about $25). Many of the children have never performed as actors, dancers and singers before and find themselves falling in love with the show biz aspect of putting a story on stage, he said.

“We have a lot of kids who have self-confidence issues. We have autistic kids. We have kids who come from backgrounds where they were bullied and don’t feel like they belong,” Bisceglie said. “And here they can feel like they belong to our family and can do a really great job. It’s amazing that kids who cry at the auditions and swear that they don’t want to do it, by the end of the production, they know all the songs, they have total confidence that if they need to fill in for someone else they can totally do it. So you really see a change.”