Soprano, cheerleader and 4.0 student Michelle Berry missed the homecoming dance in this her senior year, and so did her boyfriend, Avery Lyons. In fact, they were with their families at the Mount Baker Theatre for a concert by Neil Berg’s Singing With The Broadway Stars, because at the close of the evening Berry was invited onstage to sing a solo from “Seasons of Love,” from the musical Rent.
“We sat there and listened to all these wonderful singers,” said Eydie Berry, Michelle’s mother, “and we, or I at least, was a little nervous, wondering how she’d compare. But when her time came she got up there and really did well.”
Berry was notified earlier this month that she’d been picked for the honor over several dozen other contestants from all over western Washington, including a 26-year-old Iraqi war vet and some experienced college-level vocal musicians. She’d already recorded a video of “The Wizard and I,” a song from Wicked, the latest of several musical comedies based on L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz story.
On October 1 she got an e-mail from the associate producer of Berg’s show, congratulating her on winning the competition and telling her that she “will be invited to sing a solo on stage with our five Broadway stars during the finale.”
Berry, 17, thinks of herself as a theater person. “I love musical comedy,” said the clear-voiced young woman, who has been a fixture at Blaine’s summer jazz camps. “I’m a soprano but am getting better at belting out some of the newer stuff,” she said, “like Streisand (“Don’t Rain on my Parade”) or the song ‘Memories’ from Cats.” She likes some of the older musicals popular in the ’50s, like The King and I and Music Man, but also newer productions; aside from Wicked she also mentioned Spring Awakening and The Wild Party. “If I love the songs I want to be in the show,” she said.
On November 18 she opens at the Clair Vg Thomas Theater in Lynden in a production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory under the direction of Laura Nelson and Celeste Larson. She is currently a student of Blaine high school vocal music teacher Andy Harmening and takes private lessons from Margo Hanson, “the same teacher that Western graduate and current Broadway singer Julie Reiber worked with,” Berry said.
The second of three children of Eydie and Dave Berry of Birch Bay, Berry is a cantor at St. Anne’s Church and sang at early mass the morning following her appearance in Bellingham. Though she said she doesn’t yet know where she’ll go next year after graduating she is applying to colleges in the east (NYU, Ithaca College) and the mid west (Roosevelt in Chicago, Oklahoma City University) that specialize in musical theater “but I’ve also applied to Western ... they have a good program, too, and I’d be close to home.”