Riverwalk’s online talent show challenges local performers

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Looking to boost your acting repertoire? Thanks to a new recurring online performance project, anyone has a chance to include “Riverwalk Theatre Performer” on a resume. By sharing a video that conforms to each month’s theme, you could be one of Riverwalk’s featured artists for its new monthly virtual talent show series.

“The Online Talent Showcase is just an opportunity to try some new things for our audiences and for ourselves,” Riverwalk board member Laura J. Croff said.

Croff is a regular contributor to Riverwalk’s stage productions. She received a Pulsar nomination for her 2019 performance in Riverwalk’s “The Elephant Man.”  

Croff originated the idea for a Riverwalk talent show. “Since the pandemic has shut down in-person events and shows, we’ve decided to get a bit experimental about how we can still be doing creative projects,” Croff said.

March’s edition of the Online Talent Showcase focused on comedy. For the next showcase, which will be available on Riverwalk’s Facebook page starting April 29, the theme is a virtual dance party. Amanda Tollstam and Karyn Perry have each posted a video with a dance routine for participants to mimic.  

Tollstam’s choreography is from “The Greatest Showman.” Perry’s is an original dance. Volunteers may choose either or both as a template for their entry. All video submissions are to be submitted via email to mairora07@gmail.com by April 16.

Riverwalk’s Facebook page viewers are able to see and judge the entries. “The current plan is to have an online audience vote,” Croff said.

The March comedy showcase is still available on Riverwalk’s Facebook page. “The first event was very well received,” Croff said.

The just-over-an-hour-long show has nine very different segments. Host Mark Boyd adds his own comedic interludes between performances. That includes virtual chats with Jim Hoffmaster in Los Angeles, who has a part in Showtime’s just-wrapped “Shameless.” Hoffmeister, who appeared at Riverwalk 20 years ago, acts sarcastically like a star who cannot even remember Lansing.

Gay Oliver, Charles Hoogstraten and Julia Stroman provide chuckles with their homemade stand-up comedy routines. Oliver offers a comedic take on fakeness, Hoogstraten jokes about Shakespeare’s “dick jokes” and Stroman gives her dramatic take on men.

A 1990 Boston recording from “The Last Laugh” featuring Al Krulick on guitar and Laurie Myers’ stand-up is included. Krulick sings witty lyrics to the tune of “The Edmund Fitzgerald” in front of an appreciative audience. Meyers’ witty jokes about being a runner are a highlight of the March Riverwalk show.

Dan Currie shares an original adult cartoon with recorded laughter and Bella Croff animates Lemony Poppy’s sketches set to “Grand to Know You” from “She Loves Me.”  

Heath Sartorius and Nick Lemmer act out a skit about an escalating argument about the best monster. Sartorius also narrates a mock relaxation clip that becomes hilariously less and less calming. Croff adds a funny fantasy piece about a mom daydreaming of getting family help while she pantomimes “One Moment in Time.”

The theme for Riverwalk’s May edition of the Online Talent Showcase is battle of the bands.

“There is a planned schedule for these online events through December of this year,” Croff said. “Many types of arts and performance will be featured.” 

The theme requirements will be announced at the beginning of each month and the selected compilations will be posted on the fourth Thursday of the month.  There is no set length to each show.  

“None of these events are intended to require face-to-face interactions from people outside of their own families or bubble groups,” Croff said. “Patrons may create their submissions in ways they are comfortable with per COVID guidelines.”

Because COVID limited ticket sales, the free Online Talent Showcase series is meant to be a fundraiser. Each event has a link for patrons to make contributions.

“Riverwalk is trying hard to cultivate growing relationships with other artists, volunteers, and organizations, through the pandemic and beyond,” Croff said.

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