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Saturday January 28th

Local students will perform a Michael Jackson tribute

<p>Broadway Bound USA is performing a Michael Jackson tribute at Chapel Hill High School. Photo courtesy of Erin Dangler.</p>
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Broadway Bound USA is performing a Michael Jackson tribute at Chapel Hill High School. Photo courtesy of Erin Dangler.

Broadway Bound USA, a local musical theater youth organization, will celebrate Michael Jackson with a musical tribute full of singing and dancing Thursday evening. 

The group of local fourth-through-eighth-graders will perform at Chapel Hill High School after months of hard work. The performance features hits such as "Beat It," "Rockin' Robin," "Human Nature" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You."

Even though the music might hail from their parent’s generation, director Erin Dangler said she believes the younger generation still finds the King of Pop’s music fun, as well as relevant. She found that some fourth-graders have picked up the "Thriller" dance. 

Choreographed dances, live instruments and costumes accompany the performance’s musical numbers. Professional guitar players will strum the songs while three cellists will play along to “Smooth Criminal.” The student’s costumes will reflect some of Jackson’s iconic looks from his decades of work. 

“He’s a difficult person to imitate,” MeLinda Buleza said, the show’s costume designer and mother of one of the performers. “(We) give a nod to some more of his iconic looks through the years.”

Other preparations for the show began in late August. The Company Troupe, the specific group within Broadway Bound USA’s network, hosts this performance. Because the troupe is invitation only, the group’s members all show dedication and interest while practicing. 

“I feel like people write off children performers as cute, but these kids work hard,” Dangler said. “There is some real talent.”

Anna Buleza, a seventh grader at a local Durham middle school, looks forward to performing this week. She said her favorite parts about belonging to this troupe included the opportunities to meet new people, learn more about music and tackle challenges. Watching the audience’s reactions will be one of the evening’s highlights for her. 

“I’d seen performances with friends and thought, ‘Wow, I really want to do that,’” Buleza said, in regard to how she got involved with the troupe. “It’s a really great experience.” 

Even after performers age out of the troupe, they come back to help with the show. All the crew members formerly participated in the group and use their various skills such as theater lighting to enhance the show’s effects. One of this year’s numbers will feature a blacklight. 

Students from Brogden Middle School will also be partnering with the Troupe for a few songs. Two UNC-Chapel Hill students, Leigha Vilen and Sarah Gothard, also worked with Beyond Broadway, the organization that owns Broadway Bound USA, this year. 

Vilen, a health policy and management and dramatic art double major, and Gothard, a public policy major, both participate in the UNC Pauper Players.

MeLinda Buleza said she sees the importance of theater because the young performers learn to sharpen their teamwork skills, as well as build their self-confidence. Some students she barely saw speak on stage now hold lead roles, she said. 

Dangler also said she believes the program promotes the value of hard work and the arts. 

“We always tell the kids that actors have the power to make people something,” Dangler said. “That’s amazing.”


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