Javonte Childress wasn’t nervous this past weekend performing in BRAVO’s StageStruck musical at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, and he’s confident his nerves won’t show when he performs next month in the Chicago Ravinia Festival musical Gypsy, playing at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Childress, a 12-year-old student at BRAVO’s Summer Performing Arts, was chosen a couple of weeks ago to perform in two scenes in the musical, which runs Aug. 11-13.
Tina Reynolds, BRAVO’s artistic director, suggested Childress for the musical. Oak Park resident and talent scout Janet Lauer, who has scouted for stage shows such as The Lion King, was looking for an African-American male ranging from 9 to 12 years old. Reynolds recommended Childress, a BRAVO summer camp member since 2004. Childress said he was excited when he found out that he’d been selected. An honor roll student entering the 7th grade this fall, he said any nervousness he has disappears once he starts performing.
“I’ll be a little nervous, but after the first show, when I know what it’s going to be like, I’m not too nervous,” he said. “Really, to stop me from being nervous, just put me in the show. When I start reciting the lines and everything, everything is good.”
Childress performed in last weekend’s “StageStruck and Caf” musical at Brooks, 325 S. Kenilworth Ave. The show combined the musicals FAME, Chorus Line and Jungle Book, performed by approximately 70 students. Childress played the character of Leroy from FAME.
In Gypsy, Childress will perform in two scenes. He’ll do a tap dance number in one scene, and he’ll play a paperboy and sing in another.
It will also be a paid gig for Childress, who’ll receive $750 for two weeks of rehearsal, starting next Friday, and for the Aug. 11 weekend performances. He said he’d put half of the total into an existing college fund his parents encouraged him to start. He’ll spend the rest, he said, on clothes and shoes.
Childress auditioned a couple of times for the Ravinia show. The entire process took more than a week, recalled Marvin and Erica Childress, Javonte’s parents.
When they didn’t get a call back after the first audition, they thought he had lost the part. They didn’t officially find out he was chosen until they called Reynolds.
“We were calling to apologize for missing the second call,” said Marvin Childress. “We were like, ‘Well, we understand that he didn’t get the part,’ and Ms. Reynolds said, ‘No, no. That’s not the case at all.'”
Erica Childress said her son has always been active, especially in class, where his energy wasn’t always favorably looked on.
“What we thought would be a huge problem in class has turned into something positive for him,” she said. “I’m just happy that he has an outlet.”
The Childresses, who also have a five-year-old daughter, said they’d be at every show.
Michael Jones, BRAVO’s choreographer, said he and Javonte’s other instructors will also be there cheering him on.
“We’ll probably go every night,” Jones said. “It’s like [me] being up there. You just have that pride.”