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April 30. 2014 9:16PM

Teen Talent

NH teens chosen to perform at Boys & Girls Club conference


Jennifer Brisebois, from left, Devereaux Merchant, Kayla Bullwinkel, Megan Hammes, and Meghan McKnight of the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley pose for a picture at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Wednesday before flying to San Francisco to perform a tap number from the Broadway musical “Newsies.” (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — A group of talented teenagers from the Milford area will once again represent New Hampshire on the national stage.

The five young women from the Boys and Girls Club of Souhegan Valley departed from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Wednesday for San Francisco to perform at the organization's national conference.

It's the fifth year in a row that members of the club's arts troupe, the Riverbend Youth Company, have been selected to perform at the conference, a rare feat considering that only a handful of groups are chosen among the thousands of Boys and Girls Clubs chapters around the country.

The group will perform a tap dance number from the Broadway musical "Newsies" that was choreographed by one of its veteran members, Jenn Brisebois.

Prior to its departure at the airport, Brisebois said the team was honored to be selected to go San Francisco and wasn't concerned about being "the best."

"We're just really excited to get to go," she said. "It's not a competition, it's a celebration."

For all but one of the teens, it will be their first trip to San Francisco, and they will spend time visiting the sites.

"It's cool to represent our small town and our Boys and Girls Club in such a big place," said Devereaux Merchant, another member of the troupe.

The other team members are Kayla Bullwinkel, Megan Hammes and Meghan McKnight.

In past years, Riverbend members have performed in New York, New Orleans, San Diego and Orlando.

The group was selected based on a video of their performance.

Susan Taylor, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Souhegan Valley, said part of the reason the group has had such extraordinary success fielding performers is that it is built around the Amato Center for the Performing Arts in Milford.

The kids participate in all aspects of production, from performing to lighting, Taylor said.

Robin LaCroix, the club's arts director, said she's seen a transformation take place as the kids get more involved in performing. "One show they'll be terrified to speak, and the next show they're saying a couple lines, and the next show they're stepping out toward the audience more," said LaCroix, who is accompanying the teens on the trip.

The group is being supported in part through the Champions in Action program, which is sponsored by Citizen's Bank.

8tsiefer@unionleader.com


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