Teen performers find route to Broadway at Village Theatre

Although the confident high-school senior doesn't show it – Jake Nicholson is nervous. It's Jan. 7, opening night of "Godspell" at First Stage Theatre in Issaquah, and he plays a leading role – Judas.

Although the confident high-school senior doesn’t show it – Jake Nicholson is nervous. It’s Jan. 7, opening night of “Godspell” at First Stage Theatre in Issaquah, and he plays a leading role – Judas.

He hopes he’ll be able to say his lines with finesse, and whip out that darn double pirouette in one of the dance numbers.

But when Nicholson takes the stage at 7:30 p.m., that fear gives way to an adrenaline rush.

This is why he loves to perform.

The naturally-talented singer has been involved with Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE program for the past three years, in addition to acting in community theater in his hometown, Renton. But recently, he’s been working hard to improve the dance element of musical theater performance.

Thanks to Village Theatre’s Institute, a program started a year ago for youth in grades 6 to 20 years, Nicholson is becoming the triple threat he’ll need to become to make it in show biz.

From 3:45-10 p.m. each Monday night, Nicholson and his friends can be found here, at First Stage Theatre for their institute classes.

Nicholson is able to connect with these likeminded young people better than many of his classmates atBellevue Christian School.

“I pick them up and we get dinner together,” he said.

In addition to performing in many of the KIDSTAGE productions, the institute students work with instructors to improve their acting and vocal techniques, and even their high kicks and pirouettes. The program includes a college prep course for those like Nicholson, who hope to make musical theater a career.

Nicholson will audition for top programs at University of Michigan, Ithaca and Carnegie Mellon this winter, and then learn where he was accepted in March. The performer, who has had leading roles in “High School Musical 2” and “Hairspray,” says he’s trying to keep an open mind about where he’ll land for his undergraduate education.

Eventually, he’d like to play Lumière in “Beauty and the Beast,” on Broadway. The spirited Disney candlestick, as well as Judas in “Godspell,” are examples of the parts Nicholson likes.

“It’s a balance of that funny guy, plus, really good songs,” says the teen, who decided he wanted a career in the performing arts last year.

Despite that becoming a starving artist in a down economy is “absolutely terrifying,” Nicholson says, the Eastsider can’t wait to try his luck at Broadway someday.

“This is going to sound so corny, but this is what makes me feel alive.”

“Godspell” runs into Jan. 22 at First Stage Theatre, 120 Front St. N,  Issaquah. For more information about the show, and the Village Theatre youth programs, go to http://www.villagetheatre.org/.

Gabrielle Nomura can be reached at 425-453-4270.