Local girls share ‘Show Boat’ spotlight

By on March 28, 2018


Preteen BFFs (that’s “Best Friends Forever”) Abigail Lesher and Jaclyn Niven share a love of theatre and now get to share not only a stage, but a role. The nine-year-old girls from Cocalico were both cast (along with Lancaster’s Mychaela Rosario) in the role of Kim in “Show Boat,” currently running at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre.

The duo recently chatted about their experience over cupcakes at Scratch Bakes. Abigail chose a white cupcake with double chocolate frosting and Jaclyn went for the spring favorite, carrot cake. Theatre, like a love of cupcakes, seems to be simply a part of their childhood.

“One day we were going to EPAC because I wanted to audition. I was afraid, but then I got in!” said Abigail, who made her acting debut in 2016 in “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” at the local theatre.

Abigail performed in EPAC’s 2017 sell-out success “Disney’s Lion King Jr.” and landed her first mainstage production in last year’s holiday show, “The Wizard of Oz.” She followed up those performances with another Kids4Kids production this year as a part of the Oompa Loompa ensemble in “Willy Wonka Jr.”

Jaclyn Niven

Jaclyn followed in her older sister’s footsteps.

“Addie (Niven) started the process. She started acting when she was five,” said Jaclyn, who is inspired by her big sister. “Ever since, I just picked it up. It just came to me.”

Jaclyn got her start at EPAC, too, performing in 2015’s “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.” Her schedule has been full recently with performances in “Willy Wonka Jr.” at EPAC, “Old-Time Gospel Radio Christmas” with Servant Stage Company, and “Scrooge, The Musical” at Cavod Theatre in New Holland.

By now Abigail had licked most of the frosting off her cupcake.

“You’re doing a good job with that,” remarked Jaclyn, noticing her friend’s bald baked good.

“I like the bottoms,” said Abigail, and promptly split her cupcake width-wise in half and chomped down on the white cake once hidden by the wrapper.

Their participation in “Show Boat” is the first role for the girls at Dutch Apple.

“There was a lot of competition,” said Abigail.

The girls said actors were auditioned in groups and the largest groups, said Abigail, consisted of about 30 people looking to land a role.

“There were about 10 Kims,” said Jaclyn.

Abigail Lesher

Their process was an open audition for all shows in the 2018 season at Dutch Apple, which includes two other opportunities kids would love: “The Wizard of Oz” and “A Christmas Carol.” When it comes to Broadway shows, Jaclyn is a fan of “Lion King.”

“And ‘Kinky Boots,’” she added, which she saw with the rest of her family last year. Abigail wants to see “Waitress” and is bummed her mom went to see it without her.

“I didn’t really like ‘Wicked,’” admitted Abigail. “But, we saw that a couple years ago. I might have been too young.”

Both are quick to say “yes,” when asked if they want to pursue acting as a career.

“You’ll have to have a backup job though,” said Jaclyn, not directly to Abigail, but as a generalization to all aspiring actors.

For now, Broadway will have to wait for the girls, who take voice lessons through Lancaster’s Creative Pursuits studio and dance at Ace Dance Academy in Lincoln. In the meantime, they have a handful of performances on the Dutch Apple stage to get through.

“In the first act we start out as a townsperson, in the opening,” said Abigail. “But, in the second act …”

“We’re Kim,” said Jaclyn.

Kim is a small part of “Show Boat,” but an integral piece of the storyline. Dutch Apple decided to triple-cast the role, which alleviated the amount of time Abigail and Jaclyn needed to dedicate to performances. This freed up some of their attention, which they could focus on other areas like school.

Abigail goes to Denver Elementary and Jaclyn attends Adamstown Elementary, and they both pick math as their favorite subject.

‘Show Boat’

“Show Boat” is an old-fashioned show, chock full of musical numbers. Memorable tunes like “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” help tell the love story between performer Magnolia Hawks (Carin Lagerberg) and gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Troy Bruchwalski). Abigail and Jaclyn play Kim, the couple’s daughter.

“Kim isn’t alive in the first act,” said Abigail.

Magnolia meets Ravenal while onboard her family’s Mississippi river boat doubling as a floating stage and visiting towns up and down the river. The two fall in love despite the tension and almost impending doom in the air.

“Basically, our dad and mom get married and have a baby. That’s Kim,” said Jaclyn. “She’s sent to a boarding school. She’s not the type of kid who always gets time to spend with her family.”

“She’s very sweet,” said Abigail.

Both of the girls found it easy to get into the character.

“It’s definitely a beginner role,” said Jaclyn.

Supported by a cast of big voices, “Show Boat” follows the family through three generations while touching on racial prejudice, changing times, success and failure, and enduring love. By the end of the show Kim is grown and ultimately reunites with her wayward father; an older ensemble member takes over the role of Kim.

The young Kims rotate performances throughout March and April. Jaclyn takes the stage twice on Wednesday, March 27, for a matinee and an evening show, and returns as Kim on Friday. Abigail plays Kim on Wednesday (twice), Thursday, and Saturday of next week. Abigail gets the honor of ending the run of “Show Boat” on Saturday, April 28.

To purchase a ticket to see “Show Boat” at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, visit dutchapple.com, or call the box office at 717-898-1900.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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