‘Music Man’ launches dancer’s career

Hanging out with freshman Elie Kuppermann is like being in a “High School Musical” movie.

Out of nowhere she will spontaneously start singing famous songs from Broadway musicals, like “Hairspray,” while pirouetting around the room.

Aspiring to one day perform on Broadway, Kuppermann started her professional career in The Music Circus’s production of “The Music Man” this past summer.

According to her mother Nicole Glasner,  Kuppermann was drawn to theater throughout her childhood.

“We took her to see ‘The Lion King’ in New York when she was not even three, and she sat through the whole show, absolutely mesmerized.”

Even before Kuppermann could talk, she was singing, Glasner said.

“She didn’t know more words than ‘mama’ and ‘dada,’ but would sing the Barney theme song with the right tune and a bunch of random syllables thrown in,” Glasner said.

And Kuppermann’s love for Broadway musicals grew along with her—according to her mom, she always preferred Broadway show tunes over “usual kids’ music.”

Kuppermann enrolled in her first dance class at age 2.

She always enjoyed going to class, Kuppermann said, and by the first grade she was dancing with girls two years older than she was.

“It acts as a form of therapy,” Kuppermann said.

She trained in ballet for 10 years, but has experimented with many styles of dance from samba to jazz to Mexican folk.

Now she focuses on contemporary dance—a combination of modern dance elements with classical ballet—at iMPACT dance studio in Folsom.

Kuppermann’s passion for dance motivates her even through injury.

Four years ago Kuppermann broke her arm in gymnastics the day before the auditions for The Sacramento Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

Not wanting to miss the auditions, Kuppermann abandoned the pain medication that made her wobbly while dancing, and went to the audition without it.

The pain was overshadowed by nerves, and she just felt numb the whole time, Kuppermann said.

“(But) the minute the audition was over, she was in horrible pain and barely made it home—she was screaming the whole way,” Glasner said.

Even so, she got the part she wanted as a “party girl.”

While dancing was the focus of her energy as a child, singing has also been a passion of Kuppermann’s.

She began pursuing her singing career when she was 11 in The Music Circus’s junior production of “Annie Junior,” in which she played an orphan.

Her first professional show, however, came this past summer with “The Music Man.”

Rebecca Plack, Kuppermann’s voice coach for the past two years, suggested that she audition for her first professional part in that play.

Kuppermann’s voice is unusually pretty and sweet for her age, and she has excellent pitch, according to Plack.

“(Kuppermann) is what’s known in musical theater as a ‘triple threat’—that is, she can sing, act and dance,” Plack said.

“You need all three of those skills to do well in musical theatre.”

The audition process was grueling, though.

Kuppermann was called back four times before her part was solidified—most actors are called back only once or twice.

While auditioning, Kuppermann performed the song “Far From the Home I Loved” from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” and did a reading from a scene in “The Music Man.”

“(Kuppermann) is good at auditioning because she is a very expressive young singer,” Plack said.

“She sings with beautiful expression, both in her voice and on her face.”

Kuppermann originally tried out to be in the junior company (ages 9-13) as a River City “townskid,”  but she got called back for the larger part of piano student Amaryllis.

In the end Kuppermann was cast as a “townskid.”

The company rehearsed nine hours each day on weekdays for two-and-a-half-weeks.

Kuppermann was not involved in any of the dance numbers, but she sang six songs with other members of the cast.

And of the 22 kids chosen for the junior company, Kuppermann was one of six selected to wear a microphone to highlight their voices during the show.

They performed eight shows in six days, in front of an unusually large crowd due to the presence of Shirley Jones who played Mrs. Paroo.

Jones, more famously known for her part as Marian Paroo or Marian the Librarian in “The Music Man” movie, took the stage again 50 years later.

But this time her son, Patrick Cassidy, who she was pregnant with in the filming of the movie, played the lead Harold Hill,  alongside her.

“It was very inspiring to act alongside Jones,” Kuppermann said.

Although Kuppermann never interacted with Jones backstage, she got the autographs of all 53 cast members, including Jones and Cassidy.

Kuppermann spent most of her time with the other members of the junior company.

To get themselves amped up and rid of all their pre-show jitters, all the kids would sing a special warm-up song.

“We would sing it over and over, and then dance to it,” Kuppermann said.

It was really refreshing to be around a group of people that shared her passion for theater, Kuppermann said.

“(Theater) does limit her social life and she’s had to struggle with that,” Glasner said.

Although she has reached the age limit of 13 for children’s roles in Music Circus, Kuppermann hopes to continue her acting career and one day secure an adult role at Music Circus.

“My dream is to go to college in either New York or Los Angeles and try and get a job on Broadway,” she said.

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