Here comes the Sparkle: Over 70 area kids cast in ‘A Sparkle Bride’ musical

It’s time again for area kids to “Sparkle” on the Mishler Theatre stage.

“A Sparkle Bride,” the 11th show in a series conceived, written and directed by Karen Volpe, the Mishler Theatre manager for the Blair County Arts Foundation and founder of Altoona Community Theatre’s Summer Drama Workshop for Children and Teens, will take the historic stage Friday.

“They were written basically to give more young people the opportunity to perform, and they’ve kind of grown into much more than that; there have been friendships formed, we’ve watched kids grow up and grow their talent,” Volpe said of the series.

This year’s cast includes 75 kids, ranging in age from 6 to 17 years old and from school districts in Blair, Bedford and Cambria counties.

“It really gives them an opportunity to come from different counties, different schools and come together to share their love of performing with one another,” Volpe said. “They have this interest… They learn from one another, they learn more about the theater arts just being in this and also it gives them an opportunity to perform here in the historic Mishler Theatre, which is cool.”

Although the Sparkle shows tell a different story each time, they all take place in the fictitious Sparkle School of the Arts.

“A Sparkle Bride,” a Altoona Community Theatre and Blair County Arts Foundation presentation, unfolds when Bennie, the stage hand, proposes to Mama Sparkle, the school’s costume mistress; and the students start planning the wedding, a press release said.

“It’s another great production,” said Jonathan O’Harrow, who plays Mr. Sparkle. “I feel like every year we do this, somehow we manage to get bigger and better and top every show we did before, and I feel certain this is not going to be an exception.”

The audience will get to see how much talent is in the area, he said.

“They’re going to see 75 young kids … up on stage performing songs, performing scenes, dancing, doing all sorts of amazing things. I think, if nothing else, they’re going to be really impressed by the amount of talent we have in the area,” he said. “I think they’re also going to be very entertained. Karen Volpe … always does a great job at making sure that the show is challenging and entertaining to the kids, but also a lot of fun for adults as well.”

This production is 14-year-old Altoona teen Noah Brunhuber’s fourth time participating in a “Sparkle” show, he said.

“I always liked being in the shows because it’s a good experience for old and new children actors, so they can get their start or just improve on what they’re doing,” the eighth grader at St. John the Evangelist School in Lakemont said.

As for what he’s learned along the way: “I’ve learned my stage direction, so that’s always good, but I’d say the most important thing is learning to stay in character, no matter what happens.”

Before learning that lesson, he would catch the contagious laughter of a fellow actor, but now he knows how to “keep my cool and keep going,” he said.

The kids are not the only ones committing time and effort to the show.

Commitment comes from parents as well, Michelle McGowan, who plays Mama Sparkle, said in an email.

“They are encouraging their children to try new things and make a commitment to see that they are on time for rehearsals and have worked on their lines,” she said. “I think that’s the real message of the ‘Sparkle’ show. The children are on stage but the adults and parents share that moment in the spotlight with their children. They share that responsibility that is so important to develop in children for life, not just for theater.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.