NIKKI SPIES, mezzo soprano

by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
This is an exciting time of the year, when local universities and colleges finish up the school year. Those seniors majoring in musical theatre and the vocal arts find it especially exciting; this is the time for a carefully prepared recital presented as a Senior Showcase. The recitals are designed to display each student’s full range of musical talent, and instructors issue grades based on performance.
On April 17, we attended the showcase of Nikki Spies at Terry Hall on the campus of Jacksonville University, presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Music Theatre.
We wish we could attend them all, but some take place on evenings we are reviewing a play elsewhere. We especially try to attend those of students who have performed in local community theatres. Ms. Spies appeared previously in “The Taffetas” at Players by the Sea and “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” at Theatre Jacksonville, both of which we reviewed.
Nikki was born and raised in Jacksonville and attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts prior to studying theatre and voice at Jacksonville University. Fans of the university’s fine theatre program saw Nikki as Jo March in the musical “Little Women,” as Princess Barbara in “The Apple Tree,” and in the cast of “Rhythm of Life” and “Chess.” Nikki spent the last two summers performing with the Bigfork Summer Playhouse company in Montana, with roles in ten musicals. Nikki has been invited back after graduation for a third summer season.
The showcase title was “More to the Story,” which provided a theme. The program included a biography and a list of songs. Nikki opened her showcase dressed in a simple but striking back top and white skirt. The opening number was “Thank You for the Music,” from “Mamma Mia. “ During the first act, she sang two operatic numbers in Spanish, and one in Italian; English translations were included in the program. The first song “Preludios” was dedicated to her mother. Although we had seen Nikki in previous musicals, we were not aware of her vocal talents in the field of opera. She was excellent.
Jacksonville University Tenor, Stephen Michael Johns joined her in “Say it Somehow” from “The Light in the Piazza” with Erick Crow joining them on the violin.
After a brief intermission and a change of attire, Nikki began with the beautiful “Laurie’s Song” by Aaron Copeland. The second act was a time to have fun, as Nikki was joined by fellow JU students Jet Thomas, soprano and Maggie Moore, soprano in a hilarious number from “Shrek the Musical.” Continuing with humor, Ross Frontz, tenor and Nikki had us laughing at “Mix Tape” from “Avenue Q.”
Two of our favorite showcase selections in this segment were “If I Can Dream” from “All Shook Up,” with Stephen, Ross, Maggie and Jet joining her in the number. This wonderful evening of music was brought to a close with Nikki belting out “Astonishing” from the JU production of “Little Woman.”
Kudos to Greg Taylor for his excellent accompaniment on the piano and to Erik Crow on the violin. This was a well-designed showcase, with well-chosen songs, and many costume changes, ranging from bright colorful day dresses to slender formal gowns in soft jewel tones.
This showcase put the final star in Nikki Spies JU career. She was recently awarded the College of Fine Arts “performance excellence in Musical Theatre” and the “2012 Student of the Year.”
The appreciative audience gave Nikki a much deserved standing ovation. The Dual Critics wish her well and are looking forward to more of the story. As she wrote in her biography “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.”