• 73°

Andalusia senior aims for stardom

When 16-year-old Merelee Robinson first heard about an audition on the radio for a national talent agency in Montgomery, she didn't really think much about it. Then, with some encouragement from her mother, Melodee Hill Robinson, she made a phone call. From there, the rest, well, the rest lies in the future

in Charlotte, N.C., to be exact.

Merelee, an incoming senior at Andalusia High School, auditioned for the Millie Lewis International Talent Agency in Montgomery earlier this month in the singing and acting portions. What was discovered was that people other than Merelee's family and friends know she has the talent that could take her far in life.

"I heard about the audition on the radio, but I didn't think much about it," Merelee said. "My mom thought I should do it, but I didn't really want to. I went ahead and called and reserved a spot though and we went up to Montgomery for the auditions."

The audition process wasn't all that bad for the veteran of local stage productions.

"I auditioned with more than 100 people," she said. "I decided to audition in the singing and acting portion of the event, where I sang 'Bye, Bye, Birdy' and performed a monologue from 'Hello Dolly'."

The events that ensued over the next few minutes after her audition could change this youngster's life for ever, because the talent scouts saw something in her that prompted them to move Merelee on to the next level.

"We were all gathered in a room and the man started talking to us," she said. "He started calling out names, and told us not to clap because we didn't know if that meant we were moving on, or hadn't been selected. Then, he said that we all did really well, and 'sometimes you make it, and sometimes you don't

and you made it.' It was exciting."

Merelee should feel lucky, she was one of just a handful of the original group to move on to the national competition in Charlotte in October.

"There were only about 25 people that made it to the Charlotte competition," Merelee said. "I was picked for acting, and that's something I've always wanted to do - ever since I was a little girl."

But it's not the silver screen this aspiring starlet is shooting for. Instead, this teen has her eye on Broadway.

"There's something about the live theater that thrills me," she said. "I'll settle for anything, but ultimately, I would love to be on the stage."

Although she's willing to take a role in television, movies or stage - there is something Merelee's not willing to do.

"I will not compromise my beliefs," she said. "God comes first, and family and education. I'm not going to drop out of school for this if I get picked for a production. I'm going to continue my education."

As far as the speed at which things seem to be moving, Merelee is still a little in awe.

"It all happened pretty fast," she said. "I didn't go to get picked, and I'm not going to Charlotte expecting to get picked. I'm going for the exposure and the experience, and if I get picked there, then that's just icing on the cake."

In order to make it to Charlotte though, Merelee's hoping to get some help.

"I'm looking for sponsors to help make my trip," she said. "Sponsorships are tax deductible, and any sponsorship over $50 gets the sponsor's name in the program book under my name and bio. It's going to cost about $800, and I have to make a deposit of $200 Monday in order to reserve my spot. If anyone is interested in helping me go, they can call 469-6153 or 427-2476 and ask to speak to my mom."

Merelee has a lot of people to thank for her opportunity to break into show business.

"I have got to thank Mr. Ward Miller, the new band director at Andalusia High School for encouraging me," she said. "I'm the drum major this year, and I'm going to be missing a football game for this, but he's been nothing but supportive. I've also got to thank my mother's boss, Dr. Angelo Agro, and Ms. C.J. for their support. They truly are a blessing. My grandparents, Bobby and Merle Hill have also been extremely supportive of me."

According to Merelee, the people in charge of the Montgomery audition said "they saw something in us that sparkled," and who knows, one day, this Andalusia girl could be walking across the stage at Rockefeller Center picking up her Tony Award for best actress.