Elf Jr. the Musical, breaks box office records at Carysbrook

By Page H. Gifford

For the first time in its history, Carysbrook Performing Arts Center not only sold out for a theatrical performance but because of popular demand added another performance the same day. Elf Jr. the Musical smashed box office records. 

The show performed by The Empowered Players, a Fluvanna-based youth group, was so popular that the Fluvanna County Arts Council and Empowered Players decided to add another show on Dec. 10. The popularity of the EP Christmas shows and other performances throughout the year has been growing.

“Initially, only one performance was planned, with tickets selling out a week in advance. After a flurry of emails, phone calls, and social media messages asking for an additional performance, and with the go-ahead from the Fluvanna County Arts Council, Empowered Players secured the rights from the licensing company to add a show and the young actors agreed to perform twice for the community,” said FCAC President, Sharon Harris.

To borrow a phrase from Buddy the Elf, the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center was “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” as 36 young actors entertained audiences with two colorful, lively, and fun performances.

The musical based on the beloved and classic 2003 film Elf, was led by Syndey Kester as Buddy, and an ensemble cast, including Cassi Carter as Jovie, Sophia Dunn as Walter, Ethan Bulter as Michael, Cora Seibert as Emily, and Charlotte Carrico as Santa. A tech team of 12 students handled lights, sound, and projections for the show. The show’s success was because of the stamina and talent of those involved to perform on short notice.

In their eighth year, Empowered Players (EP) is a Fluvanna-based nonprofit arts education program whose mission is to make a difference in the community through the arts. Founder and Artistic Director Jessica Harris established the program to provide area students from kindergarten through high school with quality arts experiences, including community service and leadership opportunities. Empowered Players aims to make programs accessible with free classes, including options for students with different learning needs and styles. The program offers various courses, including tech, playwriting, and improvisation. To ensure accessibility, much of the work to maintain the program goes on behind the scenes with fundraising and grant writing. With no salaried staff for the program, Jessica Harris credits the dedication of her creative team, including Joshua Harris, Alaine Ferralli, and Rainah Gregory, for helping her continue to serve area students.

With dwindling arts programs in schools throughout the U.S., EP provides a model for introducing youth to various arts via outside sources. By giving them free access, groups like EP can reach more youth.

Each December, the Fluvanna County Arts Council, in partnership with Empowered Players, provides a family-friendly holiday performance.

“Our youth performances are our most popular, and we are very proud of our partnership. Part of our mission is to promote arts education, and the programs the Empowered Players team offers are a gift to our community,” said Sharon Harris.

The next round of EP classes and performances will be announced next month. The EP Teen Arts Board will partner with the Fluvanna Arts Council for an upcoming talent show in January. To learn more about Empowered Players, check out their website: www.empoweredplayers.com/

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