“Musical theater is great; you get painted up . . . and you sing. The joy alone of that can really carry a lot,” said American actor Chris Pine.
Sister Tiffany Nebeker couldn’t agree more. Born into a musical family, she’s been performing all her life, training with voice coaches who taught the likes of David Archuleta and performing in venues from Carnival Cruise ships to Arizona Broadway Theatre. Now she runs a theatre of her own—Surprise’s Spotlight Entertainment.
At six o’clock on a Monday night, a dozen kids in leotards and black shirts sit against her studio wall, jazz shoes tapping in unison.
Nebeker herds her students into a semi-circle.
“Yes, Miss Tiffany!”
Toes tap; fingers snap. Nebecker and assistant director Sister Christy Hiniker pass out parts for their upcoming show, an adaptation of Disney’s Teen Beach Movie.
“Okay, let’s make sure we’ve got the right note. How do you go to your head voices, girls?”
A chorus of high-pitched trills slides down the scale.
“Better!” Nebeker beams.
The excitement is palpable in Spotlight’s strip mall studio, where Nebeker’s motto, “Finding the best in every performer,” is in evidence as her students grin and high five each other.
“I like to focus on both the personal growth and progress of each student,” Nebeker says. “We are only as strong as our weakest team member. Our students learn to build one another up and support their fellow cast mates.”
A Surprise fixture since 2009, Spotlight Entertainment is a so-called “triple threat” studio. Spotlight’s six-member staff teaches not only voice or dance, but a combination of acting, singing and dancing—think Fred Astaire or Judy Garland. Classes are leveled by age and ability, some being open enrollment while others areaudition-only.
“The more students can receive proper training in all three areas, the better they do in a show or an audition,” Nebeker says. “My program also helps improve public speaking skills, encourages team work and demonstrates the importance of commitment.”
Hiniker agrees. “It’s been so great to teach at a studio that makes it possible for kids and teens to pursue vocal training, acting and dance technique- all in one studio! As a parent, it’s exciting that my girls don’t have to choose one or the other. With our instruction, every day they are gaining skills to become well rounded and marketable triple threat performers.”
While not an exclusively LDS outfit, Nebeker and a handful of her teachers and performers are Church members, an association which colors all facets of her teaching.
“The teachings in the church encourage us to develop our talents and emphasize the importance of sharing them with others,” she says.
A recent career high came in the form of an invitation by a local talent scout to form an audition group for the hit television show America’s Got Talent. While the young performers are still waiting to hear their audition results, the kids definitely received the VIP treatment during the process.
Ultimately, Nebeker would like to see Spotlight expand beyond the tiny walls of its current studio. They have recently begun to offer an adult dance program in addition to their full range of youth classes, and Nebeker is hoping for a Surprise community theatre someday, one that would “[give] kids, teens and adults more opportunities to learn and perform.”
But for now, dreams of expansion will have to wait—Nebeker’s got a rehearsal to run.
“Let’s go over the finale.”
The room is electric. Pink foam surfboards hit the floor, and Hiniker distributes a rainbow of beach towels.
“I want to see giant grins!” she reminds them as they shimmy across the room.
Filling gaps in Surprise’s cultural offerings, giving local kids polish and poise, and nurturing young talent—it’s just another day at the office for Spotlight Entertainment.