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Published: Friday, 3/14/2003

Spunk, attitude, and sass get the job

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Katie Knipp of Kansas City, at left, sings during her audition. Katie Knipp of Kansas City, at left, sings during her audition.
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SANDUSKY - Lana Forgensi has a simple plan for her career.

“I want to dance and get paid,'' the 20-year-old college student said as she stood outside a rehearsal studio at Cedar Point. “It's very hard to do.''

Ms. Forgensi and dozens of other dancers, singers, and actors with the same idea auditioned yesterday for summer jobs at the Sandusky amusement park, hoping to take a first step toward their dreams.

“I hope to get in a company somewhere, ballet, or the Disney Cruise lines,” said Ms. Forgensi, a sophomore at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. “It doesn't matter, as long as I can dance.''

Brandon Knechtel, assistant manager of live entertainment; Nikki Sarrazine, choreographer; and Marje Rody, head of the live entertainment division watch an audition. Brandon Knechtel, assistant manager of live entertainment; Nikki Sarrazine, choreographer; and Marje Rody, head of the live entertainment division watch an audition.
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She and friend Katie Newlon drove three hours through an ice storm to take part in a half-hour audition. Nikki Sarracine, a Cedar Point choreographer, taught a group of 10 dancers a series of steps and twists, then asked them to perform what they'd learned.

“What we're looking for is your spunk, your attitude, your sass,” Ms. Sarracine told the group as they stretched and pranced in front of a long mirror. “We're looking for what you're going to give us on stage - and we want you to sell it, sell it, sell it!”

Sitting on the hardwood floor with her legs splayed in front of her, the instructor called the dancers over two at a time as she cued a booming funk number on a portable stereo.

As the dancers twirled and kicked, she scribbled comments on pink sheets and shouted encouragement in staccato bursts: “Sassy! Good! Good, good, good, good!”

Afterward, Ms. Forgensi said she was surprised by the fast pace but pleased with her performance.

Choreographer Nikki Sarrazine demostrates a dance routine while Michelle Littleton, right, follows along. Choreographer Nikki Sarrazine demostrates a dance routine while Michelle Littleton, right, follows along.
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“It was very quick,'' she said. “It was faster than I thought. They teach you what they want to see, and if you can do it that particular day, great. It's a hit or miss thing.

“I feel pretty confident,'' she added, flashing a grin.

Ms. Newlon, 20, said she was happy with her tryout, even though most of her dance experience is in ballet.

“This is really foreign to me, but it's good experience. It just showed me that I need to take more jazz classes and be more diverse. I definitely thought it was worth it. I think any kind of audition experience you can get is worthwhile,'' she said.

Marje Rody, who heads the live entertainment division at Cedar Point, said summer performance jobs at the park help aspiring entertainers hone their skills and build the stamina to perform day after day. Singerdancers are paid $450 a week and perform six days a week.

“You offer a decent salary, and you can say to them, `Hey, you're going to be a better performer when you leave here,''' Ms. Rody said.

The park looks for talent, poise, personality, formal training, and a willingness to learn.

“We would take on any day someone who is likeable and willing to take direction but is a little less talented over someone who comes in with a lot of attitude,'' she said. “Obviously, we're not a theater company. We're not doing Shakespeare.''

Instead, the park's shows tend to combine skits and dancing with pop, rock, and country tunes.

Many of yesterday's auditioning singers performed songs from movie soundtracks. Lynn Seibel, a student from the University of Michigan, impressed Ms. Sarracine and Brandon Knechtel, assistant manager of live entertainment, with her brassy rendition of the title song from the movie 9 to 5, despite stumbling over one of the words.

“Cool,” Mr. Knechtel said as she finished. “Can you do that again?”

“Sure,” Ms. Seibel replied. “Sorry about that flub.”

“You've got to breathe,'' Mr. Knechtel told her. “Breathing's important. Be a little more under control, but keep the fun, keep the attitude. I like that.''

Kimberly Finch, a Berkey resident who attends Wright State University in Dayton, also won praise for her voice after belting out the song “I Need a Hero” from the film Footloose.

Asking her to sing it again, Mr. Knechtel told her, “Make it a big Star Search moment, OK?”

“You have a beautiful voice, and you control it really well,” he said afterward.

“We like her,” Ms. Sarracine confided after Ms. Finch left the room.

“It was good, it was really comfortable,” Ms. Finch said as she waited for her dance audition. “It was fun.''



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