Darien students perform in opening number of Macy's parade
A few Darien students had the opportunity to perform on national television after being selected to sing and dance in the opening number in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Carson Stewart, Alexandra Burke and Hannah Caldwell were selected to perform in the parade after applying in September. However, they didn't learn they were chosen until last week -- giving them only a few days to learn the song and dance.
"We have about four or five days to learn everything and then we have two days of rehearsal in New York," Stewart said. "I think there are about 140 participants."
When Stewart first heard about the chance to perform in the parade he initially balked, but then decided he would give it a shot.
"I was performing "Footloose" when I heard there were auditions and at first I didn't think I would do it but then I decided to give it a shot," he said.
Stewart was glad he went for it and when he learned he was selected, it was a big moment for him.
"I was really excited because I started to hear about other people who were selected and I didn't think I would get it but then I did," Stewart said.
The chance to perform on national television is a daunting prospect for Stewart who doesn't deny he is nervous about the performance. However, his tendency to shy away from the spot light is what got him interested in acting in the first place.
"I was lacking in self-confidence and I wanted to be more social so I started acting and I became more social and confident. I really love singing and dancing," Stewart said. "I think I will continue to perform throughout my life."
Stagedoor Manor offered the perfect opportunity for Stewart to gain more confidence by honing his acting skills while putting together a professional show in a matter of weeks.
Like Stewart, acting has become an important aspect of Burke's life after she became hooked on the thrill of putting on a show during a first grade performance.
"I love the feeling of being on stage and performing," she said. "I love that feeling I get when I make people happy."
The chance to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade played to Burke's strengths because her true passion lies with musical theater. That passion lead her to Stagedoor Manor where she could sharpen her singing, dancing and acting skills.
"I started going to Stagedoor when I was 10 and I love doing it every summer," she said.
Despite the small window of time to prepare for Thursday, Burke said she wasn't nervous about preforming. Part of her confidence stems from the skills she has learned at Stagedoor when putting on a full production in a matter of weeks.
"I just have to jump in and see how it goes," she said. "It will be pretty intense because you don't have a whole lot of time."
This year's performance marks the third year Stagedoor has been involved with the parade. Production Director Konnie Kittrell said Macy's reached out to Stagedoor to find out if they had any students who could perform. Initially, Macy's was looking for about 60 students to perform but that number has since grown to 140.
"About 400 kids apply each year and we choose the ones who can learn the material and are the most mature and focused," Kittrell said. "We always have a core group of about 15 to 20 students who have done the performance before but we try to bring in as many new students as we can."
Kittrell acknowledged the preparations for the performance can be hectic at times but she attributed the success of the program to the professional conduct of the students.
"What you have to understand is that these kids are so mature and focused and they work hard for this," she said. "Most of these kids have grown up watching the parade and it's a dream come true for them. The parade is such an American family institution and they get to be a part of it."