By Linnda Durre’
“The show must go on” and so must the audition! This was a lesson that Ella Romaine, the 11 year old phenom from St. Augustine, learned early in her young theatrical life. One of her auditions took place when she was in a wheelchair!
Ella was born with a condition in her left foot called a tarsal coalition, or a fusion of the bone, preventing her from bending her ankle – not something an aspiring triple threat actor/dancer/singer needs in her budding career. When she was 10, Ella had foot surgery two days after Christmas on December 27, 2012 to correct the misplacement. The doctors opened up her bones so she could have full range of motion and the operation was fully successful. Her mother remembers that time.
“We wanted to keep her active while she recovered from surgery,” explained Ella’s mother, Rebecca Romaine, a St. Augustine Realtor. “So Ella auditioned for the Limelight Theater’s KidsfACTory and their production of the play, ‘The Little Princess’ when she was sitting in a wheelchair with a cast up to her knee just over a week after her surgery. To our surprise, she was cast as the lead of Sara Crewe. Ella was able to recover enough to wear shoes on both feet for the performances and all the shows were completely sold out - it was a smash hit!”
Kate Messenger, the Education Director at the Limelight Theater, recalls, “Ella did the dress rehearsal and all the performances with her real shoes on and she was so happy. She’s a natural, and an incredibly talented girl. She’s very honest on stage and can do it all - comedy and drama – and she can sing, dance and act.”
Ella remembers when her love of the stage began. “I was about five and I went to Jacksonville to see ‘The Nutcracker’. After it was over, I went backstage and met Clara and I knew I really wanted to act and dance.”
Beginning her stage career when she was six years old, Ella has appeared in four consecutive years for the St. Augustine Ballet’s productions of “The Nutcracker” - the first year she played the Angel; the second year she had three roles - the Mouse that stole the cheese, the Angel, and the Chinese doll; her third year, she played a party girl and a Russian; and her fourth year, she portrayed the Cat and the Chinese doll. Ella also appeared in their production of “Peter and the Wolf.”
Ella loves ballet and has trained since she was six years old with a variety of dance instructors, beginning at The Dance Company in St. Augustine, where she was a member of their Company Team, and now the renowned Luis Abella of Abella’s School of Dance, the only ABT (America Ballet Theater) certified studio in St. Augustine. Ella has also studied dance - jazz, contemporary, musical theater, and hip hop – with Scott Benson and Gerard Heintz at both Abella’s and at Dance Theater USA, including a summer intensive for two years in jazz and hip hop and at a teaching convention in Orlando. The much in demand Scott Benson has performed with Michael Jackson, John Travolta, and Tom Cruise in “Rock of Ages”, just to name a few. He has been very impressed with Ella from the beginning.
“From the moment I started working with her, Ella is so charismatic and very dedicated,” Scott mentioned. “I find that so engaging in a young performer. She has a good work ethic. She is very giving, nurturing, and she is very passionate about what she does and loves it, without any ego attached to it.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by Jim Solomon, her music teacher and voice coach in elementary school from kindergarten through the fifth grade.
“I’ve worked with her for years and it hasn’t gone to her head. She has handled things well,” Jim observed. “She is a delightful young lady, always willing to try new things and to go for it. Watching her progress was very exciting.”
When Ella was only 9 years old, her beautiful voice garnered so much attention that she was asked to sing the National Anthem on February 14, 2011, at one of the men’s basketball games at Flagler College. Jim volunteered to work with her for three weeks many mornings before school started to prep her.
“Ella didn’t know the song or how to sing it,” he admitted. “I wanted her to get the best help she could, so I put her in touch with singer and vocal coach Tamare’ Bennett, and we both worked with Ella who did the National Anthem acappella.”
Watching, teaching, and encouraging a talented child to grow artistically from the age of five to eleven must be a thrill. The pride was evident in his voice.
“Ella signed up for chorus and she was a lead soloist several times. She was also in our instrumental group and she played soprano and alto recorder, drums, xylophones, and percussions, but it was obvious that her first love was as a singer,” he added.
Ella recalls her first meeting with Mr. Solomon: “When I was in kindergarten orientation, I met my music teacher. I wanted to sing and I thought how cool the room was and how cool singing would be. I had taken piano lessons for a couple of years. It kind of got boring. So I played the recorder and drums. But I always wanted to sing.”
Is this vocal ability inherited? I asked her parents.
“We don’t know where her singing talent comes from,” remarks mom Rebecca. “Neither Josh, her father, nor I can sing a note or a carry a tune.”
Ella would have been a student at Sebastian Middle School, the same school where her father, Josh Romaine, teaches computer technology for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, but she auditioned for the St. John’s County Center for the Arts at R.J. Murray Middle School - and was accepted, so Josh gets up earlier every morning to drop Ella off there and then drives to make it on time to his middle school.
“We are both very proud of our daughter. Ella is enthusiastic and well organized, in everything she does in balancing her academic studies, performances, memorizing scripts, monologues, dance routines and choreography,” states Josh. “She is self-disciplined and self-motivated to accomplish all her goals.”
JoAnne Nance is Ella’s drama teacher at R.J. Murray Middle School, where Ella’s talents and skills are noteworthy.
“This is only our second week of classes. I can tell you how impressed I am with her level of talent,” she commented. “Ella is amazing. She is really awesome. There were about 120 kids who auditioned and only 60 ended up here. Her audition was great. She has worked in shows around the county.”
And coincidentally Ella worked with JoAnne’s husband on two TV shows for “Monumental Mysteries” on the Travel Channel about the Lake George Monster and the Lake Champlain Monster.
When asked what she doesn’t like about acting, dancing and singing, Ella is quick to pinpoint her pet peeve, “I have to put on make up and get my hair curled and sprayed. I hate that! And I take it off as fast as I can as soon as the show is over.” Her mother adds, “She has those wet wipes in her dressing room and the make up is off as soon as the curtain calls are over!”
This portion below is causing problems posting Ella has been a frequent performer in the Limelight Theater’s KidsfACTory shows in St. Augustine. She was a member of the ensemble for “13 the Musical”; she played the Sheriff’s daughter in “Robin Hood”; a cupcake in “Pinkalicious, the Musical,” as well as the electrifying Bride of Frankenstein in “Frankenstein Takes the Cake.” Talk about sprayed hair and make up! Elsa Lanchester, move over!
Ella also danced in the ensemble in the Curtis Powell Musical Theater Camp’s production of “Footloose.” And she won an award – the Regional Level Best in Show by the Adrenaline Dance for “One Short Day,” a musical theatre presentation. So having all those productions on her resume and watching Ella caught the attention of Beth Lambert, Executive Director of Limelight Theater.
“I've wanted to produce ‘The Bad Seed’ for a while and I didn't want to do it until I found the perfect young actress to play the lead role,” Beth recollects. “As soon as I saw Ella perform the lead in our KIDZfACTory production of ‘The Little Princess’, I knew I had found the perfect girl for the role. I can't wait to start rehearsals!”
This will be a main stage production this fall running from October 31 through Thanksgiving weekend, as Ella stars in the title role as Rhoda Penmark, a young psychopath and perhaps a budding serial killer. Patty McCormack originated the role on Broadway and in the 1956 film. McCormack, one of the top child actors besides Patty Duke and others during the 1950’s, received both an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for this emotionally demanding role of an evil little girl.
Beth continues, “The biggest requirement for the part of Rhoda is that she be adorable and innocent looking so that when you find out what a monster she really is, it's even more disturbing.”
When I asked her how she will approach the role of a very diabolical young girl, Ella said, “I’ve never played someone like that before. I think it will be fun and interesting.”
Ella’s parents have explained to her that actors, like Ralph Fiennes playing Voldemort, portray villains and then let it go when the shoot ends for the day or when the entire performance of play, TV show, or film is over – an important lesson for a young thespian to learn.
Ella’s talent, openness to try new things, her fearlessness, confidence, and winning personality are all qualities that will empower her in what can be a long, remarkable, and fulfilling career. And she has the emotional backing of her parents, Josh and Rebecca, as well as her siblings, Owen, her 9 year old brother, and Gracia, her 7 year old sister.
“Owen and Gracia really support me. They always give me hugs and kisses. And they’re in the audience always clapping and being supportive,” she gratefully stated. “My sister makes a book for each show and she draws a picture of everyone so she’s also supportive of my cast members.”
Have her siblings done any acting? Ella remembered, “Owen got to be on TV with me in the Travel Channel’s show about ‘The Lake Champlain Monster’ and he got to be paid. He liked that a lot!”
Their mother Rebecca added, “When there was money involved, Owen said sure. He likes improv and stand up comedy. He does it from time to time. He gets a kick out it!”
Are they interested in starting a family show business dynasty? Parents, start your engines! Literally! And get out your gasoline credit cards! A sentiment I’m sure parents everywhere can identify with, whether it’s sports, clubs, or arts activities for their children.
Rebecca’s schedule as a Realtor allows her the flexibility to drive them to lessons, rehearsals, and performances; and Josh is free after school and on weekends, so if Owen and Gracia decide to enter the entertainment business, it will be a complete family team effort. But there’s plenty of talent shining from Ella Romaine of St. Augustine. We expect big things from this talented dynamo!
Ella can be reached through her agent: Maribeth Stephens at The Diamond Agency in Heathrow, Mary, FL - Email: Maribeth@thediamondagency.com Phone 407-830-4040 ext 306
Ella’s other agent is Amy Lyn Powell - Talent Pool - Clearwater, FL - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org - Phone 727-536-2005
Rebecca Romaine, Ella’s mother, can be reached at Rebecca.Romaine@comcast.net and her cell 904-687-9488. Ella’s website is www.ellaromaine.com
©2015 Linnda Durre' , All Right Reserved