2016-12-01 / Life in Leelanau

Local theatre student earns national distinction, continues to shine on stage

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

LUKE KLEIN, a junior at Leland Public School, has been named a YoungArts national finalist.Photo by Shannon Scott LUKE KLEIN, a junior at Leland Public School, has been named a YoungArts national finalist.
Photo by Shannon Scott
A Leland Comet is being recognized as a bright and rising star in musical theater.

Luke Klein, a junior at Leland Public School, has been named a 2017 National YoungArts Foundation finalist in his craft.

“This is an incredible thing for Leland,” said his teacher, Jeremy John Evans. “I believe Interlochen had one theatre student selected and I don’t know if TCAPS had anyone.”

Klein was one of thousands of students to submit audition tapes and one of just 691 nationwide recognized for this honor. As a finalist, he has been invited to participate free-of-charge in a five-day training and mentorship program in Miami, Feb. 21-26 and is eligible to participate in two additional regional trainings in Los Angeles and New York.

It was his second audition for the national program and included one vocal performance and two monologues.


LUKE KLEIN is shown here performing in Leland Public School’s production of Urinetown last spring. Photo by Shannon Scott LUKE KLEIN is shown here performing in Leland Public School’s production of Urinetown last spring. Photo by Shannon Scott “I really wasn’t expecting to be named a finalist. I just figured it was a good opportunity to audition and something I’d just learn from,” said Klein, whose interest in musical theater developed very early, just as he was beginning school.

For his audition, he sang “If Only the World Knew,” written by Scott Evan Davis in collaboration with (autistic) spectrum students at P94 in New York City.

Klein, 16, was required to perform two monologues: one contemporary and the other, classical. He chose one from the Broadway show, “Marvin’s Place” and the second, from Moliere’s “The Miser.”

Both selections had to be memorized.


KLEIN PLAYED Tobias Ragg, a young boy who served as an apprentice to a murderous barber in Leland’s spring 2015 production of ‘Sweeney Todd.” 
Photo by Shannon Scott KLEIN PLAYED Tobias Ragg, a young boy who served as an apprentice to a murderous barber in Leland’s spring 2015 production of ‘Sweeney Todd.” Photo by Shannon Scott “I only had a week to learn them. But the Moliere piece was made easier because we had just studied ‘Hamlet’ in Mrs. (Jeanne) Gross’ English class,” he said. “I could understand it better which made it easier to memorize.”

Helping him in the musical and dramatic selections were voice coaches Lynne and Rick Church and drama coach Stacy Foster of Chicago.

The Churches have been working with Klein for the past six years.

“Luke commits 100 percent to what he’s doing on stage,” Lynne Church said.

In a production of “Les Miserables” at Interlochen Arts Academy, Klein stepped up to help when they were without someone to play Gavroche, a young boy who was shot and killed in the story.

“He’s gone down as the most believable Gavroche they’d ever seen. He puts in 100 percent no matter what he does,” Church said.

Evans remembers well Klein’s first interest in the musical/theater program at Leland.

“He was just little, maybe kindergarten and first grade, and he’d sit on the back wall … watching me direct,” Evans said. “His eyes were peeled and even then he was a curious artist. He’s so expressive and has taken so many steps to improve his craft.”

Klein is a familiar face and memorable to anyone who has taken in a production at Leland Public School — including “Sweeney Todd” and “UrineTown.”

In addition to helping out in “Les Miserable,” he was also part of Interlochen’s production of “Children of Eden.”

Klein also lived part-time in Chicago in 2014 and 2015, and was part of two professional regional productions at Theatre at the Centre.

He has also starred on the silver screen as the lead character in an independent film, “Camp Manna” that debuted at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids in September.

In the film, Klein pays Ian Fletcher, a teenager who is shipped off to a backwoods Christian camp, where he is forced to take part in (and survive) a Biblically-themed Olympiad known as the God Games.

The makers of the film are from the Grand Rapids area and shot Camp Manna on location at Camp Hayo-Went-Ha near Traverse City.

According to published reports, he was paid at the Screen Actors Guild rate for the professional work. Klein is represented by BMG Talent of Chicago and Los Angeles.

His experience at the YoungArts training in February will benefit Klein professionally as well as scholastically. Seniors with his distinction are eligible for $10,000 college scholarships and perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

“Luke is an example of one of our finest,” Evans said, adding that the distinction as a YoungArt finalist will go a long way to getting him into the finest universities for musical theater in the country. “With all the accolades and honors he’s received, he still joins me to sing with the kids in the kindergarten room…

“He’s very grounded in the community. That’s nice to see,” Evans said.

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