Bloomfield local stars in NLT’s new show

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Getting into character, Crystal Bennett will appear in ‘[title of show]’ at the Nutley Little Theatre.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Although Bloomfield resident Crystal Bennett will be performing in only her second production at the Nutley Little Theatre in the upcoming “[title of show],” she has been quite busy.

“I’ve done seven shows this year alone,” she said prior to a recent rehearsal. “I work a lot.”
But acting, singing and dancing is only three-quarters of what Bennett does. She also choreographs and has that responsibility for “[title of show].”

Her first production at the Nutley venue was “Almost Maine,” in 2017. A dance major who graduated from Kean University in 2016, Bennett became involved with the Little Theatre because her boyfriend’s mother volunteers there. She auditioned for “[title of show]” because one of its songs is her regular audition song.

“I’ve always liked singing,” Bennett said. “But as time has gone on, I’ve become more of an actor and dancing has taken a back seat.”

“[title of show],” with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and book by Hunter Bell, premiered at the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival and been produced on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in London. It is about four people writing a musical about four people writing a musical. In its initial productions, Bowen and Bell were cast to play themselves, using their real names, as were two actress friends. Bennett now plays the actress Heidi Blickenstaff.

“The show is great,” Bennett said. “It’s not a typical show. It’s about putting on a show. It’s an inside look about building a show. There’s a lot of fourth wall-breaking.”
Bennett has appeared in the musicals “Rent,” Legally Blonde,” ”The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “The Little Shop of Horrors” and the play, “Proof.”

“The role in that play was very intense,” she said. “The script was 70 pages and I was onstage for 67 of them.”
Among musicals, her favorite is “The Little Shop of Horrors,” and the female lead, Audrey, is a favorite character.
“She’s a sweet girl who doesn’t think she’s much,” Bennett said. “As an actor, I made up a whole life story. At the end, she realizes she’s worth a nice guy. People have been brought up this way. As an actor, I always enjoy telling other people’s stories.”

In “[title of show],” the character of Heidi is always talking about having rehearsals and auditions.
“It’s like my life,” Bennett said of the show.
As for choreographing and acting in the same show, Bennett does not find it difficult, although she does find choreography more challenging than acting and singing, which she considers her strengths.

As a musical actor, she started young. At age 5, she made up stories, sang and recorded them for her little sister, Jenny. And when she was 21, she started taking singing lessons. Bennett also teaches voice as well as dance and piano. But right now her focus is on “[title of show].”

“Unusually, I have something,” Bennett said. “But doing the choreography and acting, I want to concentrate on this before jumping into the next thing. But I do have an audition lined up.”

“[title of show]” will be performed at the Nutley Little Theatre Barn, 47 Erie Place, Nutley, on June 14, 15, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, at 8 p.m., and June 16, 23 and 29, at 2 p.m. Admission is charged. The June14 performance will benefit New Jersey Buddies.

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