Joanne further echoes his thoughts: “One of the good things about this movie is that it has an ‘Our Gang’ mentality of kids doing things kids have always done, like performing in garages and putting on shows in nursing homes. It is good family fun for kids and parents today.”
I got the chance to interview many of the dancers, actors, singers, and even the producer, director, and choreographers that brought this movie to life. I was most impressed by the fact that this movie was not made in Hollywood or New York or any other famous movie making location, but in our very own New Jersey! The plot was mostly portrayed by kids about my age, some even younger!
In “Standing Ovation,” five singing and dancing junior high best friends, who call themselves The 5 Ovations, compete in a national music video contest in the hopes of winning one million dollars. Standing in their way is the older musical group, The Wiggies. They are self-centered, scheming sisters who hope to win with their famous wigs and cruel pranks.
The movie teaches kids to never lose hope and always follow your dreams.
“There is a lot of talent here that needs to be seen by the world,” adds producer Diane Kermin. “…It is all about kids. It’s about kids succeeding. It’s about kids your age, your girlfriend’s age and your friend’s and your cousin’s age really going for their dreams and succeeding.”
Diane Kirman is from South Jersey, has worked in the Atlantic City area and still has family in the area.
Many of the dancers were selected from the Joanne Reagan Dance Studio, Cold Spring, NJ. Joanne Reagan, and her daughter Ann, were also choreographers for the movie.
According to Joanne, Diane Kirman and the other producers, “felt the natural setting of southern New Jersey, including shore towns, added a vibrancy to the scenes.”
At the red carpet celebration, Joanne shared her thoughts;
“Tonight’s celebration is to celebrate all of the children, the young ladies and the young men, and a lot of the adults that are featured in this new film…I can’t even begin to tell you what type of a surprise you are in for.”
Mr. Raffill further adds, “The film is a celebration of the dancing kids of this area and they were just spectacular. It’s just great that these kids from this one town could be the stars of a movie like this. I think it is great that they have their own red carpet.”
The movie features 20 original songs and 14 original dance numbers. We wondered how this movie differs from other popular dance movies. Joanne Reagan, who also worked with the 5 Ovations, explained,
“…the dancing is more technical…from advanced gymnastics, to hardcore ballet, to contortionist dancing and advanced jazz.
After the movie, I was thrilled with the opportunity to interview some of the dancers while they enjoyed their well-deserved after party at the Wildwood Convention Center.
I enjoyed speaking with the talented young dancers at the party, including Morgan Mulholland, Gabby Niemann, Kaitlyn Wallace age 14), Delaney Wallace (age 14), Caroline Wenzel (age 14), Georgia Pappamarkas (age 9), Kaileigh Kita, Lexi McBuell (age 14) and Leah Yost (age 10). I asked the dancers what challenged them the most learning the choreography, and most of them agreed that remembering the choreography in a short period of time, and trying to keep together.
Most dancers had an inspiration for starting dance.
“Paula Tramutolo, she plays Jasmine. We are really close and when she started dancing I really got into it and I wanted to do it, too,” said Caroline Winslow.
They also agreed that they learned something very valuable and that they will never forget from making this movie. Kaileigh Kita their feelings, “I learned that not everything comes easy to you in life. You have to work for things you really want.”
Not all of the local dance talent was discovered at a dance studio. I met with young Ali Alizani, age 10, who was discovered while skateboarding at an ACME parking lot. According to Ali, representatives from the movie happened to see him skateboarding and noticed that whenever music played he would, “stop skateboarding and do a dance.”
As a fellow student of dance, he was thrilled to be discovered and cast in the film.
These young dancers, actors, and singers are living every little girl’s dream. For Ashley Cutrona, age 19, landing the role as Zita, one of the Wiggies, has been a dream come true. I got the chance to interview a girl who hit the spotlight just across town in Howell!
“I started dancing when I was two years old. My mom put me in ballet classes and I really, really loved it and it stuck with me. I took a musical theater class where I had to sing and dance and it was so much fun, Ashley shared when I asked her how she got into the acting profession.
“I was about six years old and I went home one day and I said, ‘Mommy, I want to be famous.’ Ever since then I have been working towards that goal,” she explained.
This bubbly actress knew it took hard work and perseverance to reach her goal.
“I have always been a very, very, very hard worker since I was a little girl, and I have always dreamed about this. Every time it is 11:11, I wish that my work will pay off and I’ll get to be on the big screen or be famous. I have always worked hard and nothing came before my goal,” says Cutrona.
Another dancer featured in this film is the rising star Paula Tramutolo, age 18. She was recognized by her belly dancing in Joanne Reagan Dance Studio’s recitals by the director and producers. She was cast to play the part of Jasmine.
When I asked what she learned from this experience, she replied, “Responsibility. It takes a lot of responsibility to make it anywhere in life. And, just patience.”
Although Paula’s belly dancing was featured in the movie, I was interested to learn that Paula’s most loved form of dancing is the flamenco dance.
“I learned that in Brazil one time and I just felt like it was one of the best dances I ever learned. It is full of passion, anger, sadness. It is just something I love.
“If you love to dance, dance forever, because it is something that is very beautiful and never stop,” Paula concludes the interview.
Alana Palombo, the adorable ten-year-old who stars as the self-centered and determined Alana Wannabe, was another actress I had the pleasure of interviewing. Was she really like her character?
“In similarities I think I have so much energy and I never take ‘no’ for an answer. But…in life I am not as obnoxious or annoying as I am in the movie,” she revealed.
I thought it would be hard for a kid to keep up with the older dancers and difficult dance choreography, but Alana disagreed.
“[The older dancers] helped me so much and they gave me so much support!” she explained.
So what was the most challenging part of this movie for young Alana?
“When I was talking to my dad (in the movie) and I had to say, ‘I love you, too.’ I had to act saying it. I think that was the hardest part. I am really just used to saying it to my real dad. It was just weird saying it to someone else,” she said.
Alana adds that the coolest part about creating this movie was,
“…at the end when everything is completely finished and you look and you see yourself on the screen, it’s just incredible!”
Most of the singers have the same vocal coach, Sal Dupree. Mr. Dupree (Dupree Performing Arts Studio, Linwood, NJ), is also the film’s music supervisor and one of the film’s producers. He also stars in the movie as the Wiggie’s father, Mr. Wiggs.
Alana said Dupree was, “a huge inspiration,” and, “he helped in so many ways.” The other singers I interviewed agreed.
Rising star actor Austin Powell, age 16, starred as Mark O’Brian in this feature film, and had many interesting things to say in the interview. First, about his character,
“…the character I portray is very misguided and he’s in with he wrong crowd for a lot of the movie. He tried to show that he is good at heart, but he has lots of trouble with that. I hang out with the right crowd. It was very cool to play a character that wasn’t like me in that sense.”
I was curious to know the most challenging thing about acting, and his reply was, “The most challenging thing about acting is not so much becoming the character. For me, once you become the character, (the difficulty is) trying to feel what they would feel. If you don’t feel the emotions then you’re not really acting; you’re not becoming the character…step into those shoes and become that person and then try and feel what they feel.”
To all you kids who want to be actors, Powell says, “My greatest advice is just to keep pursuing your dreams. Don’t ever give up…You’re gonna see a lot of obstacles on the way up to your success and how well you deal with the obstacles determines how well you’ll do.”
I asked Austin about executive producer James Brolin, and he said, “He took the cast under his wing. He’s a great actor. He taught us all a lot. He was on set. He has a presence that makes everyone want to work harder and strive to achieve the goal of the film much more. He worked like crazy for us.”
Austin says about filming in Cape May, NJ, his home state, “Most people go away to fulfill their dreams; they move to California or they move away and they have a distinct experience that is completely separate from home. The reason we feel like such a hometown cast and we bonded so much is because we are all from here and we are all growing as people where we have been growing our entire lives.”
I also wanted to know Austin’s thoughts regarding teen competition. He relates,
“The movie is about a competition. We all go through our own little competitions in life trying to get what we want and overcome the obstacles that overcome anybody. So I think the movie has a lot of scenes that kids can relate to.”
He further adds that kids and adults will connect to this movie because of the music.
“The music is amazing because it covers all genres. You have hip hop, you have a little rock, you have pop, you have R&B. You have some oldies in there for the adults. It’s great. People are going to love it.”
Also on set of “Standing Ovation” was bubbly Kayla Raperelli, who portrayed Cameron, one of the 5 Ovations. I was curious to see what this 14-year-old’s future plans were, and her reply was,
“I still want to go to college and get my education. I still want to pursue my acting and singing and all of those things…whatever happens, happens. What will be, will be.”
I asked her how it felt to be selected and to film a movie in your own home state.
She said, “I think it is such a great thing for not just me, but for our state because it is showing everybody that you can take kids from little towns in New Jersey and we can make as great a movie as they make in Hollywood. It has been a great experience just putting us on the map, and saying, ‘hey, we’re over here and we can make just as good a movie as anybody else can in the world!’”
Kayla Jackson, 13, is certainly another rising star when it comes to show business, and I was impressed by her part of Brittany, one of the lead roles and one of the 5 Ovations.
“I think my family is just a big inspiration because they always teach me to never give up and to just keep going in whatever you do. So I think they were a big inspiration to pursue acting.” Kayla said when I asked her who inspired her to act.
“(Filming in Cape May) was so much fun. There is the one day on the beach where we danced on the beach and that was just really amazing. Being on the beach and doing the Tina Turner dance was so much fun. And we also filmed in the Cape May Mansion where we did the scene with the fleas, said Kayla.
When I asked her what she thought the coolest part of creating this movie, she replied, “The coolest part of creating this movie is bonding with the cast and becoming one big family. And then also seeing what we produced in the end; the end result. It was just so amazing to see what we had done.”
Lastly, Joei DeCarlo, 13, is a very interesting person, both in her role and in real life, and it was a pleasure to interview her. She played the part of Joei Battalucci, the 5 Ovations tough manager who had to handle some wild creatures!
In the movie, Joei had to be in close contact with snakes, frogs, and other reptiles and bugs.
“The most memorable moment would probably be working with all the animals because I am always afraid of that kind of thing but they (the crew) helped me get comfortable with all of the animals,” says Joei.
I then asked her how teens would like this movie, and she replied, “They will like the fact that it is a real family film and it applies to all ages. And it is not just one age group. The whole family can go see it and it has a lot of inspirational messages, like, don’t give up, and if you can believe it, you can achieve it.”
All actors, actresses, dancers, and singers alike have agreed that this experience has been unforgettable and has taught them many things, including the power of friendship and the support and inspiration from their families and mentors. They all have become a huge family. In every interview, they agree that the movie’s message to teens is to go for your goals and never give up.
New Jersey has come together and made a piece that many kids can relate to. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for these talented young kids.