Stop! In The Name Of Arts

Allan Appel Photo Thumbelina and Motown met in a rousing New Haven Board of Alders-sponsored kids’ talent show that raised $4,000 for kids’ arts programs citywide.

“A Night of Motown” was the theme of the fifth annual Talent Haven show, spearheaded by East Shore Alder Sal DeCola and the Board of Alders.

DeCola said the event came together to raise scholarship funds for families who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to send their kids to Neighborhood Music School, Music Haven, or the after-school arts programs at Co-Op High.

The performance Thursday night attracted 75 friends, family members, and arts lovers to Co-Op High’s auditorium, where kids from the Alliance Children’s Theater (ACT) brought the house down with a medley of tunes from the musical Thumbelina, which the kids are performing later this month at their home theater at Fair Haven School, along with Motown classics like “Dancing In The Street.”

ACT Director Ellen Maust, who is also the school system’s arts coordinator, put the performing groups together with the help of Kelly Wuzzardo, the director of education at the nearby Shubert, which is in a long-time artistic partnership with the kids at Co-Op Arts and Humanities High School.

Ten groups of kids were originally scheduled to take the stage on Wednesday night, said Wuzzardo. The snowstorm pushed the show to Thursday.

“We weren’t expecting a blizzard, and next year we’ll build in a snow day,” said Wuzzardo, emphasizing how complex it is to organize transportation for kids. The teens in the performing groups arranged, long in advance, to be free Wednesday, but had to responsibly show up at their jobs on Thursday.

“That’s why it’s mostly little kids” who performed on Thursday night. “We’re still here. They’re troopers, by golly,” Wuzzardo added.

The ACT kids, 14 strong, performed an exuberant medley of Martha and the Vandellas tunes combined with numbers from their own show, a musical version of the Hans Christian Andersen tale “Thumbelina.” (Performances of Thumbelina at Fair Haven School happen on March 31 and April 1.)

The show opened with an impressive medley of Stevie Wonder tunes performed a cappella by performers from the host school, the Co-Op Choir.

Next up, the Edgewood Jazz Ensemble, or “The Edge,” performed “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” a standard made famous in the late 1960s by Curtis Mayfield.

The mostly brass group, directed by Joel Pietrorazio, featured impressive anchoring drums and a flute solo; the kids also performed “Black Orpheus.”

After the Lincoln-Bassett kids, the show concluded with a performance by dancers from Augusta Lewis Troup School choreographed by Shaquella Nelson.

All evening long the program’s master of ceremonies, Board of Ed Member Ed Joyner, challenged the audience to name the original Supremes (Dianna Ross, Mary Wells, and . . . . ?)

Praising the performances and emphasizing the need for New Haven kids to have cheerleaders in their lives, Joyner even threatened to break out in dance himself.

Instead, he took out money from his wallet and encouraged audience members to give even more.

“Arts provide kids an education that lasts a lifetime,” he said.

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