A little less than 30 years ago, for one spectacular weekend, I was a rock-star. I’ve talked about this before: I was a vocalist for the 1984 cast of the Mahopac High School rock ensemble ILLUSION. Mostly I sang back-vocals (and, admittedly, not always well) and I wasn’t the smoothest dancer in the group. In the first half of the show, I dueted on the Everly Brothers’ “Dream Dream Dream” with Michelle Perlman, and on Chicago’s “Color My World” with Deb Schwartz (I’m sure if video were available, we’d see how awkward that was for a young man not yet able to admit to himself, let alone anyone else, that he was gay). I had my big lead vocal on the big closing number, the most theatrical of a show full of theatrical rock numbers (a Michael Jackson medley, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Carry On My Wayward Son”): STYX’s “Come Sail Away.” For everyone one of our three performances, people screamed my name and I scissor-kicked my way off the stage and into the audience to shake hands and high-five. It’s an experience that still sticks with me. Last year, I attended the 30th anniversary show and caught up with a lot of the folks I shared the stage with or who were in the group in the years right before and right after mine.
So imagine my surprise when, due to the “small world” nature of Twitter, I came in contact with a girl named Amanda, who happens to be a “street team” captain for a band we both love (and who we discuss down below) and who also happens to not only be from Mahopac, but is a vocalist in this year’s 31st ILLUSION cast! Of course, I couldn’t resist interviewing her about our musical connections:
ANTHONY: Hi, Amanda! Thanks for taking the time out of rehearsals for Illusion to answer a few questions!
AMANDA: Thank you for taking time to interview me!
ANTHONY: You’re a vocalist for the 31st year of Illusion (and, just to keep things in perspective, I was a vocalist in the 4th year). Was this your first year auditioning for a spot?
AMANDA: This was my first year auditioning for a spot. I was very nervous because I haven’t sung in 6 years on stage but I’m very glad I did.
ANTHONY: How many vocalists are there this year, and how many songs are you each singing?
AMANDA: There are 11 vocalists this year. Each vocalist sings a range of 2-4 songs plus backups. There are a total of 35 songs this year.
ANTHONY: Which songs are you singing lead vocal on, and why did you choose those songs?
AMANDA: I’m singing Lead Vocals on What Doesn’t Kill You by Kelly Clarkson and Gives You Hell by All American Rejects. I chose What Doesn’t Kill You because Kelly Clarkson is one of my role models. I love her and her voice and wanted to do something by her. I chose Gives You Hell for three reasons. First, it was a really good fit for my voice. Second, I kind of picked it as a message to anyone who has bullied me in the past because look where I am now. And Lastly, I knew it was going to be a crowd pleaser and a fun song to jump around onstage to.
ANTHONY: What do you think it is about Illusion that has enabled the group to last for three decades and survive so many changes in what’s hot and popular in music?
AMANDA: I think that the song selection has a lot to do with that. There’s times were it doesn’t matter how old or recent a song is, as long as you rock out to it, the crowd will love it! It also introduces high schoolers to new music that they maybe haven’t listened to before.
Amanda with Hollywood Ending's Tyler Wilson
ANTHONY: Okay, you know I have to ask this one: did you try to get your director, Mr. Przymylski, to let you sing a Hollywood Ending song? If not, why not??
AMANDA: I actually didn’t. Their songs are a little on the lower range for me but who knows, maybe next year I’ll try out One Wish. Or a new Hollywood Ending song!
ANTHONY: Speaking of our mutual friends: What would you say to folks who think Tyler, Dan, Cameron, Mike and Chris are “just another teen band” to convince them to give Hollywood Ending a listen?
AMANDA: I think that everybody should give Hollywood Ending and listen to their music. Their music is really upbeat. They have those types of songs that you can blast in your room and just dance and sing like crazy. Each and every one of them is incredibly talented. Another thing about them is the love they show for their fans. They always take time to meet every single fan no matter where they are. They are the sweetest people I have ever met in my life. It’s really something special when you see musicians who truly care about their fans and take time to hang out with them at concerts. That’s why people should give them a chance.
ANTHONY: And my usual final question: what is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?
AMANDA: I’d have to say my favorite book is The Last Song. I’m not a big reader at all but I picked this book up before the movie came out and I was not able to put it down. Nicholas Sparks is a fantastic author and the book is so detailed that I could picture the whole book in my head. It goes into much greater detail than the movie does and the book has a lot of important parts that the movie did not. This was also the first book ever to bring me to tears. It’s a great book and I really recommend it.
ANTHONY: Thanks, Amanda!
Folks, you can follow Amanda on Twitter as @hollywoodmandy and as half of @hwoodending_st, one of the official street teams for Hollywood Ending. And, as you can see from the poster below, you’ve got one more shot to catch this year’s ILLUSION concert if you’re anywhere near Putnam County, NY: tonight, March 17th, at 7:00 pm at Mahopac High School. Go check them out! It’s a great show every year, and this year must be at least as good as 1984. *haha*