The Young Ambassadors’ new show “Thank You for the Music” is a celebration of the impact and joy music can bring. Their on-campus performances will be in the Dance Performance Theatre in the Richards Building through Jan. 28.
The Young Ambassador team consists of 20 singers and dancers, 5 live band members and a 9-person technical crew. Performers combine both timeless musical theater favorites and modern musical hits for their showcase.
“This show in particular has three sections,” Young Ambassadors artistic director Nathan Balser said. “We are saying thank you to the music; thank you to the radio music, thank you to the Broadway music and thank you to movie music.”
Balser said he believes all styles of music can work in harmony to create a meaningful and powerful production, which is evident in the content contained in this musical review with well-known classics such as Queen, ABBA and Whitney Houston to a more theatrical approach with songs from “Guys and Dolls,” “Wicked” and “Newsies.” This production also contains newer and more “mainstream” music such as Ed Sheeran, BTS, Disney movie songs and more.
Balser emphasized that Young Ambassadors is so much more than just singing and dancing, it is an incredible tool in creating a neutral and safe environment for all audience members.
Kersee Whitney, a second-year cast member in Young Ambassadors, said she has the same vision as Balser when it comes to the good performing can do. “There is something so beautiful about singing and dancing that can bring such joy into people’s lives,” she said. “It is a means of escape from some of the things that can be really hard in our daily lives.”
Whitney said the Young Ambassadors actively strive to create a production and environment where audience members from all walks of life can come and feel joy.
“Sometimes the performing arts can be seen as such a selfish thing, like an inward expression of either showing off or of ‘look at me I’m on stage,’ but the way to really make a difference and to have joy in performing is to really do it for others,” Whitney said.
Whitney said this selfless approach is one of the defining characteristics of Young Ambassadors; both performers and audience members are able to feel the joy that live theater brings.
Hailey Hyde, a previous cast member for three years, reflected on her time with the team. She said, “It is a joyful experience for people to come to the theater, especially to a Young Ambassador show because it is so focused on bringing joy to people. That’s the ultimate purpose of the group.”
Hyde commented on the shift that performers often need to make which is the shift from an inward focus to being focused on creating “truly magical” moments for audience members and anyone the team comes in contact with.
Jeff Sundwall, a cast member for Young Ambassadors, talked about this shift. “I used to think that the best part of being a Young Ambassador was the performance aspect, but it is actually more about the outreach that we do,” he said.
Sundwall said he remembered several workshop events and outreach opportunities that show how the team is focused on turning out and serving the community through their talents.
In reference to the inclusiveness and selflessness of the team, Young Ambassador member Brooke Neilson said, “Our theme this year as a team is ‘You Belong’ and I feel like that is very much what we try to do.”
Neilson said the theme “You Belong” is not just a goal for the team in their interactions with each other, but it is also an invitation to everyone to come and be part of the joy music creates. “Everyone belongs in the theater, no matter what is happening, everyone belongs here,” she said.