Star-Bulletin Features


Thursday, November 26, 1998



By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Janel Parrish is Scout and Richard MacPhearson is
her father, Atticus, in Manoa Valley Theater's
"To Kill a Mockingbird."



Singing sensation
takes dramatic role

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Tapa

IT seems like only yesterday that 8-year-old Janel Parrish came out of nowhere, blew away the competition at the Oceanic Cablevision Kiddieoke-Plus talent search, then auditioned and won the role of Little Cozette with the national touring company of "Les Miserables."

Janel did all that and more before she turned 9. As of Oct. 30, she is now a cute and engaging self-styled "pre-teen."

"Life's still the same, but I feel older," she says of reaching double-digits (she's 10).

Singing remains one of her favorite activities, but she is making her debut in a dramatic non-singing role in Manoa Valley Theatre's production of "To Kill A Mockingbird." Richard MacPherson stars as attorney Atticus Finch. Janel plays his daughter, Scout.

"She's feisty, she's pesky (and) more of a tomboy than a girl. She's different from my personality because I don't beat up boys, and I'm not as tough, but I like my part," Janel explained over lunch.

A few minutes of conversation is all it takes to establish that Janel isn't an average "pre-teen." She speaks at times with the clarity and perception of someone much more mature. She says she enjoys acting her age, but had no problem with the adult subject matter of "Mockingbird."

The little-girl side of her personality surfaces with the confession that walking through the cemetery outside the theater after a late rehearsal on a dark and windy night is more frightening than anything in the play.

"It makes a shiver run down my back," she says with a nearly simultaneous laugh and shudder.

Janel was still a pre-schooler when she began entertaining her parents with elaborate plays and musical productions. She'd create a different stage name and persona for each show; dolls and stuffed animals were her co-stars. Stuffed dogs still top her list of favorite collectibles. During her nine months with "Les Miz" she added at least one dog per city to her collection. She shares her bedroom with a pack of silent pals.

She was "discovered" while singing to entertain herself while her mother worked out in a local health club. An enthusiastic referral from another member got her an agent, she blitzed Kiddieoke-Plus with her rendition of "Think of Me" from "Phantom of the Opera" and the rest is history.

She's been called back several times for the stage production of "The Lion King" but is still too small physically to join the cast. A recent call-back for "Ragtime" required her to juggle commitments here to make a quick trip to New York. She's hopeful that she'll get the part, but that's it. In the entertainment business the deal isn't real until contracts are signed and the money is in your pocket. She's focused on "Mockingbird" and school for now.

Her parents, Mark and Joanne, encouraged her imagination and her dreams from the beginning, but school is the priority. They explain one reason Janel hasn't done community theater in the past is the tremendous amount of time involved. Outside of school and homework, her weekly schedule includes jazz- and tap-dancing lessons, as well as piano, acting and voice lessons.

"I like singing more than I do acting, but I'm having more fun doing this play. I like being in all the scenes. The only thing I don't really like is I have to stay up really, really late (and so) I have to take hour naps. I hate taking naps."

The actress looks across the table at her parents and repeats the line for dramatic impact:

"I Hate Naps!"

In the best of all worlds she'd start the day at noon and go to Moanalua Elementary for recess. A real day starts at 6 a.m. and consists of the standard school grind of class and homework. When time allows she enjoys "kid things" like softball.

"I really don't have a lot of time to do most things other than schoolwork, taking naps and doing theater, but I love theater," she says. Eventually she hopes to branch out into film and television work in addition to "legit work" on Broadway.

Even at lunch, her acting skills surface. She's a kid one minute, a sophisticate the next, then she morphs into a doe-eyed coquette and laughs at the character she's created.

She's neither Scout nor Little Cozette, but Janel Parrish is quite a character!


To Kill a
Mockingbird

Bullet On stage: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 13

Bullet Place: Manoa Valley Theatre

Bullet Tickets: $20

Bullet Call 988-6131.




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