BEAVERCREEK — When Annika Linquist found out a “Hamilton” cast member was visiting her school choir, she “freaked out a little bit.”
“A good freak out,” the Coy Middle School eighth grader said. “I was really, really happy.”
A huge “Hamilton” fan, Linquist — and the rest of the Coy choir — spent almost 90 minutes with Stephanie Jae Park, who plays Eliza Hamilton in the national tour of the hit musical, which began its final week at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Tuesday. Park led a master class, offered some tips, and sang for the more than 200 sixth through eighth graders who comprise the choir.
And she also took a giant selfie with the group.
“It was amazing,” Linquist said. “I’ve never gotten to do that before. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
Park visited the middle school as part of Broadway Plus, which connects Broadway actors and actresses to students. She worked with the choir on various aspects of musical performance including space, energy, and breathing.
“It was a lot of fun,” said seventh grader Cooper Sutton. “Learned a lot of new breathing exercises. New warm-ups.”
Park — who has also appeared in “The King and I” and “Cinderella” either on Broadway or the national tour — walked away impressed with the excited and enthusiastic throng.
“Oh my gosh, so lovely,” she said before heading to Dayton to prep for Tuesday’s performance. “The students were great. Just like great energy. It’s always so lovely to work with the next generation and just to see their joy and excitement. I can’t wait to see what comes out of them as artists as well.”
Many, like Linquist, are huge fans and were wearing “Hamilton” T-shirts or hats and singing along when Park performed some snippets.
“I feel very responsible to set a good example and to be a good role model,” Park said. “Mostly I’m just grateful. It’s so awesome to see musical theater continue to thrive as an art form and it’s super inspiring to see ‘Hamilton’ specifically inspiring students to learn more about history and just see what it feels like for themselves to do it themselves, to be artists and try it themselves at home. It means so much to me. I didn’t really get the opportunities to see that much theater growing up. When I did see it, it meant everything to me. I just find it inspirational and hopeful for the next generation.”
Choir Director Sean Hurley was thrilled that Coy was able to land Park to lead the session.
“She’s clearly one of the best performers out there in the business right now,” Hurley said. “I thought it would be an amazing presentation for the students. Oh my goodness, we could not be happier.”
Hurley added that Park’s positive feedback is huge as the choir gets back to singing after a year off due to COVID.
“For her to come in and work with a whole bunch of middle school students and to give us such high praise was fantastic,” he said. “One of the biggest things is hearing a professional come in and say the same things that I get to say on a day-to-day basis. Some times it’s kind of like white noise to students and then when someone else says it, they say it slightly different and it connects, or they say it in a way that just becomes more impactful and then the things I say in the classroom actually pick up authority with them. I’m hoping … all those things are going to carry into our classroom next week.”
If nothing else, Park’s praise made an impact on Linquist.
“It makes me feel happy and special,” she said. “I have no words. It was just amazing.”