Thursday, February 5, 2004

10-year-old serious about playing in the spotlight

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ten-year-old Mackenzie Duan puts on her shades, tosses her blond ponytail and shimmies to a jazzy riff in Green Eggs and Ham with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Music Hall's stage.

"Would you like them in a box? Would you like them with a fox?" she implores The Grouch (soprano Vera Mariner)at a Tuesday rehearsal.

Mackenzie, a sixth-grader at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, says she'll be right at home singing and dancing the role of "Sam I Am" in front of 3,000 people at Saturday's Lollipop Concert in Music Hall. It's all about having confidence, she says.

"I think you need to be confident about yourself. And you need to take criticism well, because if you don't, you won't be able to make it," says the perky preteen. "People might say that you're not right for the part, so you always have to have a thick skin."

Mackenzie, who lives with her family in Eastgate, is talking backstage in her own dressing room. Already a veteran, she's sung in Home for the Holidays, co-emceed Music Hall's 125th anniversary show, and has performed several times with the Cincinnati Pops.

A dancer since age 3, Mackenzie has been planning her Broadway career since age 5, when she fell in love with the spotlight.

"I was a little drama queen," she admits, with a big smile. She hones her talents at school, where she takes musical theater, vocal music and drama, but also loves English and geography. Any free time is spent on the tennis court, or hanging out at home with her younger sister.

At the end of rehearsal, Mackenzie takes her bows like a seasoned pro, then crouches on the floor and looks at the musical score while conductor John Morris Russell goes over a few fine points with her.

There's nowhere she'd rather be than on Music Hall's expansive stage. Even when the hall is empty, she imagines the audience there.

"I just like looking out at all the people," she says.

Her favorite Broadway show is The Music Man ("I like that time period a lot," she says). But she doesn't have a favorite role that she's dying to play.

"I want to play them all," she says.


If you go

What: Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Lollipop Family Concert. John Morris Russell, conductor; Vera Mariner (The Grouch); Mackenzie Duan (Sam I Am).

When: 10:30 a.m.

Where: Music Hall

Preconcert: 9:30 a.m., Meet-A-Musician

Tickets: $10 adults; $5 age 12 and under. 381-3300 or

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