Edzant on the rise as a musical theatre talent
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO–Jonathan Edzant, 18, a recent graduate of Canyon Crest Academy, won a $1,000 award and, perhaps more importantly for his future stage career, had the opportunity over three rounds of judging to demonstrate his capabilities as a singer to regional theatre decision-makers.
Edzant will enter UC Irvine’s theatre arts program this fall. In addition to the fact that UCI has a high-quality theatre program, he said he chose that campus for the practical reason that it is half-way driving distance between possible auditions in Los Angeles and San Diego. Additionally, the campus has a program involving studying during the senior year on Broadway.
Over the past year, Edzant has appeared in top roles in two musicals produced by the J*Company, which is the youth theatre associated with the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, as well as two productions of ACT San Diego, a non-profit conservatory theatre for young actors. A tenor and accomplished dancer, he also won the “North County Idol” competition involving high school performers from throughout the northern part of San Diego County.
He played Tommy, the troubled young pinball wizard, in the J*Company production of Who’s Tommy. Next, for ACT San Diego, he portrayed Emmett Richmond, a young attorney and love interest in Legally Blonde. Then it was back to the J*Company, to play in Xanadu the part of Sonny, an ordinary human who falls in love with a magical and beautiful woman. And now, he is in rehearsal for Footloose with ACT San Diego, in which he’ll portray Ren, the Boston teenager who moves to a Georgia town where dancing has been outlawed.
“I’ve always liked to dance but I’ve never been a featured dancer before,” Edzant commented about this production. Footloose opens July 20 and will be performed through the end of the month at the Carlsbad Cultural Arts Center at Carlsbad High School.
The joy of performance runs through his family, Edzant told an interviewer. His late uncle Lee Cass, a baritone singer and voice professor at Carnegie Mellon University, appeared in the Broadway productions of The Most Happy Fella, Green Willow and All in Love. Edzant’s mother, Leah, plays guitar and violin and enjoys leading song sessions around the house. His father, Bob, has performed improvisational comedy at San Diego’s Marquis Theatre. His sister, Alissa, 16, has performed in J*Company productions and in Junior Theatre. And Alissa’s twin, Michael, is a synchronized ice skater who has been competing around the United States.
While growing up, “me and my brother and sister used to put on shows for our family and friends — shows in the house,” Edzant said. “We would do lots of musical numbers for relatives and neighbors who would walk by during the holidays especially.”
His own career began when he was six, when his father “convinced me to try singing on stage and dancing. When I was in kindergarten he convinced me to try out for the talent show at my elementary school and I sang ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ (made famous by rhythm and blues singer R. Kelly) and I tap danced to Riverdance and ever since then I have just really enjoyed being on the stage. My first main role was JoJo (the boy who can’t stop thinking ‘thinks’) in Seussical at Junior Theatre. Thereafter he had parts big and small at a number of local venues including Starlight Theatre and the Lyric Opera.
Edzant said he was alerted to the Old Globe competition by J*Company director Joey Landwehr. “Basically I had to prepare two contrasting musical theatre songs that were about 16 bars, or 30 seconds, each and I did ‘I’m Free’ from Tommy (when Tommy breaks away from the mirror that had a trance-like effect on him) and ‘On the Street Where You Live’ from My Fair Lady (in which the infatuated Freddy marvels at how geographically close he is to Liza Doolittle).
After performing those musical snippets, he was advanced to the semi-final round in May. “We were told we would have to perform the full versions of the songs we sang for a new set of judges,” he related. ”And this was at the Old Globe. KPBS came and filmed a lot of it and that was a bit nerve-wracking for me because I had to sing both songs in front of an audience and a TV camera. That was quite an experience! But I made it through; I tried not to let the camera distract me.”
In the final, Edzant had to be ready to sing any of several songs on his list, and the judges directed him to reprise “On the Street Where You Live.” He gave the winning performance.
“I sang that in front of an audience and a new set of judges, including Mark Simon, a costume director for the Central Theatre Group in Los Angeles, and that was exciting. When they announced the winner, I couldn’t believe it. I was in complete shock!”
In addition to performing in musical theatre, Edzant has performed in the choir of Congregation Beth Israel led by Rabbi/ Cantor Arlene Bernstein and has played the flute in his high school band.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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