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The Daily



06-12-03: New Bremen woman performing in Ohio has Broadway dreams
Super star

The Daily Standard

    New Bremen resident Erin Quellhorst experiences Cedar Point from a different perspective than most amusement park visitors. Instead of riding roller coasters and eating cotton candy, she can be found singing and dancing six days a week on stage at the Centennial Theatre.
    Performances of "Star Struck!" began June 7 and continue through Aug. 24 at the Sandusky park's only air-conditioned theater. The lively production salutes the musical icons and pop culture of the past, present and future.
    "It's a very challenging show," the 20-year-old entertainer says. "I come from a technical background (ballet) and now I'm doing hip hop."
    Quellhorst, who also performed at the same theater last year, is part of a 12-member cast featuring six guys and six girls. The eight-member technical crew handles everything from lights and sound to stage props and costume changes.
    Costumed couples sing and dance together, but solo numbers allow for time alone in the spotlight. The New Bremen woman earns much-deserved applause with the Gloria Estefan song "Get On Your Feet."
    She experiences a "rush of adrenaline" backstage before each performance as the sounds of people talking and clapping filter through the curtain.
    "I guess there is a little nervousness involved but not the kind that makes you forget the choreography," she says. "This is the first time many of the people out there have seen the show. They deserve the best performance we can give."
    The schedule is a busy one with four daily performances Monday through Wednesday and five Friday through Sunday, with a 15-minute break between each production. There is no show on Thursdays.
    Cast members arrive at 3 p.m., 90 minutes before showtime, for physical and vocal warmups. Being physically ready is just as important as being mentally and vocally ready, according to Quellhorst.
    In the course of each 25-minute show, female cast members make multiple changes involving nine to 10 costumes, three to four pairs of shoes and four to five wigs. The men also dash offstage to switch costumes.
    "My quickest change is 20-30 seconds and the longest is 4-5 minutes," Quellhorst says. "We have two amazing dressers on each side of the stage waiting to help. Thank heaven for Velcro and zippers in the costumes and elastic in the shoes."
    The New Bremen woman chuckles, recalling how the production has evolved since rehearsals began Memorial Day weekend. The grueling sessions ran 10 to 13 hours with no free days.
    "You walk in with a clean palette and go from there," she explains. "It was very hard for me to picture how everything would come together in the beginning."
    Many cast members are college students like Quellhorst, who have performed in school productions, amusement parks and dinner theaters. Others come from off-Broadway theaters and cruise ships. The dance captain is a former New York City Rockette. All were hired following auditions held throughout the country.
    "Our strengths complement each other and we work out the weaknesses," she says. "Bloopers occur occasionally, but you learn to go on as if nothing happened. In most cases the audience never knows unless it shows on your face."
    One performance from the 2002 edition of "Hooray for Hollywood: The Sequel" stands out in her mind. She had to dance with a huge Carmen Miranda-style headpiece rigged to wires and pulleys above the stage.
    "My body moved but the headpiece didn't come along," she recalls with a chuckle. "I nearly ended up with whiplash."
    Quellhorst, who has eight years of voice lessons and 15 years of dance lessons under her belt, admits learning hip hop dancing has been a challenge. The street-style choreography is far different from the precise ballet movements she learned at Maeva Naylor's studio in Wapakoneta or the modern dance routines she picked up at Eastern Michigan University. She describes it as less defined and more flowing.
    "Dancing requires shallow breathing while singing involves deep breathing. You have to hit a happy medium where you have enough breath to do both."    
    Quellhorst, a college senior majoring in dance performance and music therapy and minoring in musical theater, says she enjoys the camaraderie shared by the Centennial cast and crew and those from the park's other shows.
    "We work together, live together and go out together," she says. "We're a lot like family."
    They attend employee night activities with selected rides operating after the park closes. Other outings take them to Sandusky restaurants and night spots. And sometimes a pizza shared with friends in their dormitory-style living quarters is the ideal way to end a tiring day.
    Quellhorst, who first appeared at Bearcreek Farms during the summer of 2000, plans to go to New York and begin auditioning after graduation. She dreams of appearing on Broadway, but knows hard work and auditions will become a way of life.
    "You learn to accept rejection gracefully," she says. "Rejection isn't a personal thing. Sometimes you just don't fit the image the casting director has in mind or the costume that's already made. Hard work and perseverance pay off in this business."
    Quellhorst says her parents, Tim and Vicki Quellhorst, continue to support her efforts and dreams as they have since childhood. She also looks beyond the stage to another career in the future.
    "I want to go into music therapy someday," she explains. "I have been blessed with the ability to sing and dance, and I want to share these blessings with handicapped children and adults."


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