FROM THE BLOGS
701 5th Avenue South, Naples, FL
NAPLES — In a voice much bigger than her own small frame, the young girl on stage at a recent rehearsal for “Annie” belted out “Tomorrow,” silencing everyone in the room.
Jessica Cohen Michaels, 11, is known for her dynamic voice. She started singing at age six and began musical theater at eight. Her powerful voice and extensive stage experience won her the lead role as one of two Annies in the latest Naples Players’ musical production about a young orphan saved by a billionaire businessman. The Broadway show made into standards such tunes as “Tomorrow” and “Hard Knock Life.”
“Theater is something that brings joy to me,” Jessica said, “I get to work with many talented people and incorporate dancing, singing and acting.”
She has acted in eight productions, including “Mulan” and “Willy Wonka,” as a member of the Naples Player’s KidzAct, a youth theater program. “Annie” is her first production with adults and on the main stage.
“I like the big stage because the bigger the crowd the more comments and thoughts I get,” Jessica said, “You can really become a better singer, actor or dancer by listening to those comments.”
She heard about the auditions for “Annie” through friends and knew right away to try out, Jessica said. She sang “Constant Craving” by K.D. Lang, choosing it for its memorable, haunting tune.
“I thought immediately that she had the ability to play the role, said Dallas Dunnagan, the director of the musical.
Getting the role of Annie exposes Jessica to veteran actors, directors, producers and even a show dog named Twister who plays the role of Sandy, Annie’s canine friend. She considers learning and working with them the highlight of being in the show.
“The best part is working with the great teachers, actors and the dog,” Jessica said, “I take details from working with everyone to make my performance better.”
The toughest thing about “Annie” is the grueling practice schedule, she said. Rehearsal started in May, requiring five to six sessions a week in addition to her normal school time. Jessica’s mom, Anita Cohen, helped balance the harried schedule by having Jessica finish homework and take a power nap before going to practice.
“She was so enthusiastic about going that she got her homework done lickety-split,” Cohen said. “Her grades even got better because she had no time to put things off.”
When Jessica is not rehearsing, she performs regularly at local farmers markets and celebrations on Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South in Naples. She later hopes to add a dance troupe to those performances. The tips she gets from singing at these community events are given to charities that benefit children in Florida.
Outside of performing, Jessica likes to play tennis, go swimming, shop with her parents and hang out with friends.
“I’m girly,” Jessica said, “I like to do girly things and buy jewelry.”
In the future, she hopes to follow the footsteps of another petite singer with a big voice — Christina Aguilera. But being famous like Aguilera is not a priority for Jessica.
“I don’t have to be famous,” she said. “I just want to bring joy to people with my music.”
Jessica Michaels is slated to take the stage July 7 to 11, July 21-25, July 31 and August 1.