Manahawkin Girl With Sights Set on Broadway Receives Scholarship That Furthers That Aim

Nov 28, 2018
Courtesy of: Morgan Gamble Eliana Gamble loves to sing and dance, and the 7-year-old from Manahawkin recently was awarded the Broadway Lights the Night’s Molly Greenwald Rising Star Scholarship.

Eliana Gamble has quite a long “buc-kid list” of things she wants to do by the time she’s 16 years old. Among them are to see the musicals “Hamilton” and “Wicked,” go roller skating, make a gelatin Slip ’N Slide, acquire a unicorn and cook up a giant M&M pancake.

The 7-year-old from Manahawkin has some time to accomplish these goals. However, it’s more likely she may play the part of a unicorn in some musical before she straps a harness around one.

“I want to be a Broadway star,” Eliana said, sitting in the lobby of Starlight Performing Arts Center, surrounded by her mom, Morgan, and Starlight co-owners Jenny Stodd and Lisa Carlson. “I love singing and dancing. Singing and dancing makes people happy, and I like making people happy.”

The Ocean Acres Elementary School student soon will be putting smiles on the faces of Surflight Theatre audiences when she appears in Elf! The Musical next month, but for now she is the one smiling. Eliana recently was announced as the recipient of the nonprofit Broadway Lights the Night’s Molly Greenwald Rising Star Scholarship.

“Just in the past six months, Eliana has developed her own fire to working on her own and not being pushed by us, which is really fun to see,” Stodd said. “Eliana really has advanced because of her hard work. When she started here, she was really shy. But she’s come out of her shell.”

The $500 scholarship is named in honor of Greenwald, a 13-year-old performer who in December 2013 passed away after a battle with leukemia. The scholarship is for performing arts students, ages 7 to 15, on the rise and looking to further their musical theater education. Scholarships are used for theater camps, school programs or private lessons – “any music theater education that gets you closer to your dream of being a star,” according to the Broadway Lights the Night (BLTN) website.

As part of her entry for the scholarship, Eliana delivered a video telling a bit about herself and performing a pair of songs, “I Always Knew” from the “Annie” sequel “Annie Warbucks” and “Naughty” from the show “Matilda.” While singing “Naughty,” Eliana even utilized – very well, too – a British accent.

“I like singing songs from Matilda,” she said. “I like how it tells a bunch of different stories. In the middle of the song, it’s cool because it goes slow and then it gets faster and faster.”

The young, budding star with long blond locks got her start in musical theater at 3 years old when she performed in Disney World’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Revu, playing the role of Davy Crockett.

“She was terrified,” said Morgan Gamble, obviously among Eliana’s biggest fans. “But she came off the stage and said she loved it. She hasn’t stopped.”

In addition to voice lessons, the young field hockey player who enjoys buttered tortellini and macaroni and cheese – she’s 7, soon to be 8 in January, after all – also has an affinity for tap, ballet, jazz and acting. Carlson said “the fire in her has exploded during the past year.”

“She works very hard,” Carlson said. “Eliana works her butt off in dance classes, often taking advanced classes that challenge her, and you can see her love for what she’s doing. Since the spring, every time on stage she’s stronger and stronger. Every week, she gets better.”

During the past few years, Eliana, whose favorite films are “The Greatest Showman” and “Dolphin Tale,” has appeared in several musicals, including “Home for the Holidays.” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Big Fish.” She’s also competed the past two years as part of Starlight’s All-Star team.

As the BLTN Rising Star recipient, Eliana next fall will get to perform with the theater group in New York City’s The Cutting Room. Of course, from there the sky’s the limit.

“Eliana’s definitely not shy on stage,” Carlson said. “It’s where she shines.”

— David Biggy

(Courtesy of: Morgan Gamble)
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