Allison Strong

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Allison Strong
8.23.14AllisonStrongByLuigiNovi1.jpg
Strong at the Lackawanna Music Festival in Hoboken, New Jersey
Background information
Birth name Allison Trujillo Strong
Origin Union City, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation(s) Actress, singer, songwriter
Years active 1999–present
Website www.allisonstrong.com

Allison Trujillo Strong is an American pop singer, songwriter and actress known for her Broadway work in the musicals Bye Bye Birdie and Mamma Mia!. Strong, who began acting at age 7, won a national jingle-singing competition for Oscar Mayer at age 11, and appeared in local productions in and around her home of Union City, New Jersey since childhood, in venues such as the Park Performing Arts Center and Montclair State College, where she majored in musical theater. She also was an award-winning poetry reciter. She has performed at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and on the morning TV Show Good Morning America, for numerous governors of New Jersey, as well as at the White House and for Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. A Colombian American herself, she writes and performs vocals in both English and Spanish, and composes on both piano and acoustic guitar.

Early life and career[edit]

Allison Trujillo Strong[1] is from Union City, New Jersey. Her great-grandfather, who died in the 1940s, made his living in Colombia by writing poetry, an activity in which Strong herself developed a strong interest and connection to him.[2] Strong grew up in a Spanish speaking household and spoke only Spanish until an incident in a store. As Strong explains, "A woman yelled at my mother and told her that she should be ashamed of herself for not teaching me English, since I'd need it in school...From that point on, she only spoke to me in English. But once I got to high school, I decided to throw myself into the English as a Second Language program and took Spanish classes with all of the kids who had just come to this country, and it forced me to learn."[3]

At age 7, her mother, Patricia Trujillo, addressed Strong's shyness by enrolling her in acting classes[4] at the John Harms Center for the Arts (now the Bergen Performing Arts Center)[5] in Englewood. From grades 1 - 8, Strong attended Woodrow Wilson School, an arts-integrated school[1][3] in Weehawken, where she studied drama under Joseph D. Conklin.[6]

Strong began her singing career in the contest circuit at age 9, when she won New Jersey Network (NJN)'s Hispanic Youth Showcase with the first show tune she ever learned, "Much More" from The Fantasticks. She would go on to win that competition three times, later hosting an Emmy-winning show for the channel.[7] At age 10, Strong joined the Park Players of Union City, an acting troupe based out of Union City's Park Performing Arts Center. She received professional vocal training, and learned to sing opera, eventually becoming member of the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus.[6]

In November 2001, 11-year-old Strong was selected from more than 2,000 entries and 10 finalists as the winner of Oscar Mayer's second Concurso Cantando Hasta La Fama ("Sing for the Fame") contest, in which she sang the brand’s jingle in Spanish. Her victory earned her the opportunity to appear in a national Oscar Mayer commercial and $20,000 toward her college fund.[1]

Strong, at right, with fellow students at the 2008 Union City Multi-Arts Festival at the Park Performing Arts Center.

Her first lead role was at age 12 as Dorothy Gale in her school's production of The Wizard of Oz.[4][8] The same year she appeared in the Metropolitan Opera's Carmen.[9]

By age 13 Strong appeared in the Park Players' May 20, 2004 production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, her fifth production with the Park Players.[6] That same year Strong was one of 48 participants selected statewide for NJPAC's sixth annual Summer Youth Performance Workshop Showcase program, which features the state's most gifted performing arts students.[10]

On April 7 and 8, 2006, Strong, while a sophomore at Union Hill High School, appeared in the school's production of Annie Get Your Gun.[11]

On March 27, 2008, Strong won the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition, a contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, in which students recited and performed poems of their choosing. Strong beat over 5,000 students from 44 high schools and one home-schooled student.[12] Strong earned $1,500 in scholarship and awards, and praise from the judges, who noted, "Strong elegantly relates the mounting tone from astute humor to quiet triumph." Strong’s performance of the William Shakespeare sonnet “My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun” appears as the fifth segment of a DVD compilation of the 2006 – 2007 finals that was released that November for schools and teachers.[13][14]

In June 2008, Strong graduated from high school, where she was that school's final salutatorian before it converted to Union Hill Middle School. Following graduation, she attended the Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, where she majored in musical theater.[4][15]

In September 2008, Strong participated in the NEA’s Sixth Annual Poetry Pavilion at the National Book Festival.[16]

On March 28 and April 5, 2009 she played Jo March in a production of Little Women at the Studio Playhouse in Montclair, New Jersey.[15]

Professional career[edit]

Strong and her boyfriend, Marrick Smith[3] perform at the Lackawanna Music Festival.[17]

In 2009, Strong read about an open casting call in an issue of Back Stage for a production of Bye Bye Birdie.[4] Strong slept on the street for hours in a sleeping bag in front of the Roundabout Theatre Company in order to audition, an act that she saw as the start of her professional career.[3][7] On May 5, 2009, on the same day Strong's maternal grandmother died in Colombia, came the bittersweet news that Strong was cast in the ensemble, as a member of the chorus and in the role of Helen Miller, one of the friends of the cast’s female lead, Kim McAfee.[4] The show, which starred John Stamos,[18] was produced at the Henry Miller's Theatre in Manhattan, and debuted on October 15 of that year, marking Strong’s Broadway debut. Commented Strong, "I'm making my Broadway debut at the same age Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli did. To get my big break so young…is a little frightening, but it assures me that performing is what I was born to do.” Strong took a six-month break from school in order to focus on rehearsals.[19] To promote the show, Strong and her castmates performed their rendition of the song “Honestly Sincere” on the morning TV show Good Morning America.[4][20]

In 2010, during her freshman year at Montclair, Strong was a writer for Back Stage magazine’s "Take 5" column.[21] As of 2010, Strong has performed solo for every governor of New Jersey since Christie Todd Whitman, as well as at the White House, and for Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.[7][22]

On May 27, 2011, Strong sang at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater as part of the 2011 NJN Hispanic Youth Showcase, in celebration of the Showcase’s 25th anniversary, and in honor of the Showcase’s first participants and the memory of music teacher Perla Espinal. The show was broadcast on NJN on June 29, 2011.[23]

June 2011 saw the debut of Perks, a musical webseries described by Playbill as "Glee meets Wii", in which Strong stars as Courtney, the object of affection for geeky high school gamer Josh (Alex Wyse), the series’ male lead, who is too shy to express his feelings to her.[24][25][26]

In August 2011, Strong auditioned for the Broadway musical Mamma Mia!, on the advice of Bye Bye Birdie's musical director. A week later she was cast as a temporary replacement for a cast member who had suffered a concussion. Strong sang all 23 songs in the production, learned multiple dance numbers, and was the understudy for Ali, the supportive best friend of the show's main character, Sophie.[27]

On June 2, 2012, Strong sang the American National Anthem and the Colombian National Anthem at the opening of Union City's Columbia Park, which celebrated the city’s Colombian American population, before a crowd that included Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack and the city’s Commissioners.[28]

In 2013 Strong was one of 14 applicants selected to attend the week-long Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriter's Project at Northwestern University in Chicago, a workshop for promising American songwriters.[29][30] That July Strong played Captain Jess Hartline in the off-Broadway play Volleygirls,[30] for which Strong and her fellow cast members were given the 2013 NYMF Award for Excellence for Outstanding Ensemble Performance at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.[31] The following month saw the release of Strong's debut EP album, Rewind,[30] a 12-track record described by Playbill as an "eclectic fusion of Latin, country-folk and piano rock."[32] In analyzing the title track "Rewind", whose lyrics describe making amends with a lover, Katie Lebert of Gadfly Online stated, "In her revealing chorus 'Can I apologize for what I have realized?', Strong accurately encapsulates the guilt and indecision we may face near the end of a failing relationship. A truthful, memorable track, Strong immediately proves that sincerity and emotion."[33]

In November 2013, Strong won Top Female Solo and People's Choice awards at the Hoboken Music Awards.[3] The following month she performed at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan.[3]

On January 12, 2014, she performed at Pianos on Manhattan's Lower East Side.[3] On August 23 that same year, she performed at the fourth annual Lackawanna Music Festival, an independent music event held in Hoboken, New Jersey.[17] Not long after, actor/director/producer Diego Luna flew Strong to Bogotá, Colombia to appear in an episode of Back Home,[34] a documentary TV series on the Fusion network that follows a different celebrity guest each week on "an intimate and emotional voyage to their family's country of origin."[35] Strong subsequently appeared in Under My Skin, a comedy written by Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser, who were the creative forces behind TV series such as Who's The Boss? and The Nanny. The show opened May 15, 2014 at the Little Shubert Theatre.[36]

Strong's debut, dual-language album, March Towards the Sun, was released August 31, 2014 on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify.[32] Katie Lebert of Gadfly Online called the first single, "One and Only" "beautiful", referred to the title track "Hacia el Sol" as "truly anthemic", and praised Strong's rendition of the song "Pueblito Viejo" as a "captivating, nostalgic song showcases Allison’s Colombian roots, as well the depth and range of her voice." Of the album overall, Lebert said, "Her truthful, relatable lyrics shine with Broadway strength vocals as she is accompanied by a symphonic variety of instruments and styles. Varying between catchy, carefree songs to emotional ballads to Latin inspired, romantic melodies, Hacia el Sol is undoubtedly one of the strongest, most unique albums I have listened to this year."[33][37] The album was also praised by Neil Mach of Raw Ramp magazine, who commented, "Allison's vocals are thoroughbred. And the clever lyrics are well articulated. With a ripple of real meat running through their veins." Mach called "One and Only" "wonderful", and mused, "Allison shows, with this song, that folk music does not necessarily have to be all about fragility, flippy-floppy hippiness or floating fluffiness. She proves that folk songs can be supplied with drive and determination. And with business attitude."[38]

August 2014 also saw the premiere of Nickelodeon's animated children's television program Dora and Friends, on which Strong has provided voice-over work.[37]

Style and influences[edit]

Strong writes and performs vocals in both English and Spanish, and composes on both piano and acoustic guitar,[5][39] having initially exhibited a guitar-driven country style, before later shifting more towards piano accompaniments.[33] Her music draws inspiration from pop, country and Latino music, and she has compared its sound to that of Sara Bareilles,[30][33] whom she cites as in influence. She has also expressed an admiration for Latin artists like Laura Pausini, Carlos Vives, Jesse & Joy, Soraya, and Shakira, as well as American artists such as Ingrid Michaelson, India.Arie, Aloe Blacc, Alison Krauss, and Taylor Swift.[5][33]

Aside from solo performances, she is part of a studio band that includes fellow Jersey musicians Alex Brumel on guitar, Eric Novod on percussion and Erik Kase Romero on bass.[29][30][40]

Personal life[edit]

Strong's favorite authors include Emily Dickinson, Mitch Albom, and Jane Austen. She enjoys baking, playing the piano, performing the national anthem at events, and hosting a show on a local television channel.[2]

Her boyfriend is singer/songwriter Marrick Smith.[3]

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • 2008 New Jersey Poetry Out Loud[12][13]
  • Top Female Solo artist, 2013 Hoboken Music Award[3]
  • People's Choice award, 2013 Hoboken Music Award[3]
  • 2013 NYMF Award for Excellence for Outstanding Ensemble Performance (for Volleygirls, shared with rest of cast)[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Nardone, Christine (November 16, 2001). "Cutting the mustard Girl wins national Oscar Mayer contest". The Hudson Reporter.
  2. ^ a b "National Endowment for the Arts Presents Sixth Annual Poetry Pavilion at the National Book Festival: Biographies of Participants". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Testa, Jim (December 2, 2013). "Meet Allison Strong, the Hoboken Music Awards' 'People's Choice'". NJ.com.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Moses, Claire (October 15, 2009). "Hudson teen in Broadway cast of 'Bye Bye Birdie'". NJ.com. October 15, 2009
  5. ^ a b c "Hoboken Girl of the Week: Allison Strong {+ Where You Can Watch Her Sing}". Hoboken Girl. August 11, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Rosero, Jessica (May 14, 2004). "'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' Park Players bring life to the Peanuts gang". The Hudson Reporter.
  7. ^ a b c Diggs, Tom (February 10, 2011). "The Brilliant and Beautiful Allison Strong". Perks, The Musical. Archived at Kickstarter. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  8. ^ Mulero, Eugene (January 30, 2003). "Hello, yellow brick road Students perform 'Wizard of Oz' Jan. 30 - Feb. 2". The Hudson Reporter.
  9. ^ "Allison Strong Photo Gallery". Playbill. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  10. ^ "Soloist". The Union City Reporter. November 2004.
  11. ^ Rosero, Jessica (April 9, 2006). "Love and sharpshooting Union Hill High School presents 'Annie Get Your Gun'". The Hudson Reporter.
  12. ^ a b Millan, Nicholas (May 6, 2008). "Only the 'Strong' survive UC student, state poetry reading champ to compete nationally". The Hudson Reporter.
  13. ^ a b McGlone, Peggy (November 11, 2008). "New Jersey 'Poetry Out Loud' champ featured on new DVD". NJ.com
  14. ^ Blair, Elizabeth (April 29, 2008). "Students Compete in Poetry Recitation Contest". NPR.
  15. ^ a b Staab, Amanda (April 5, 2009). "A local ‘little woman’". The Hudson Reporter.
  16. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts Presents Sixth Annual Poetry Pavilion at the National Book Festival". National Endowment for the Arts. September 18, 2008
  17. ^ a b McGovenrn, Patrick (August 25, 2014). "Indie music fest strikes right notes". The Jersey Journal. p. 3
  18. ^ "Montclair State Theatre Majors Broadway-Bound in 'Bye Bye Birdie!'". Montclair State University. July 22, 2009.
  19. ^ "Reaching the Top". The Union City Reporter. June 28, 2009. p. 4.
  20. ^ "Cast of 'Bye Bye Birdie' Performs on 'GMA'". ABC News. October 2, 2009
  21. ^ Strong, Allison (April 6, 2010). "Sounds That Say Love: Our Take Fivers listen for their cues." Back Stage.
  22. ^ "Allison Strong March Towards the Sun". The Deli Magazine. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  23. ^ "2011 NJN Hispanic Youth Showcase". NJN. June 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2012.[dead link]
  24. ^ Gioia, Michael (June 20, 2011). "'Perks' Musical Webseries Starring Allison Strong, Alex Brightman, Alex Wyse Debuts (Video)". Playbill.
  25. ^ Gioia, Michael (June 11, 2011). "Alex Brightman and Allison Strong Star in New Webseries, 'Perks'". Playbill.
  26. ^ Diggs, Tom. "The Perks of Writing a Musical". KickStarter. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
  27. ^ Hortillosa, Summer Dawn (August 12, 2011). "Union City actress lands a role in Broadway's 'Mamma Mia'". NJ.com
  28. ^ "Strong Beginning for Colombia Park". The Union City Reporter. June 24, 2012. p 2.
  29. ^ a b Purcell, Carey (June 6, 2013). "Participants Announced for Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project". Playbill
  30. ^ a b c d e Morris, Paige (August 9, 2013). "Union City actress, musical performer Allison Strong to play from debut EP at NYC show Sunday". NJ.com.
  31. ^ a b "NYMF Awards for Excellence 2013". New York Musical Theatre Festival. July 29, 2014.
  32. ^ a b Gioia, Michael (August 22, 2013). "Volleygirls and Mamma Mia!'s Allison Strong Will Release Dual-Language Album". Playbill.
  33. ^ a b c d e Lebert, Katie (July 22, 2014). "'Hacia el Sol' Has Sold Me On Allison Strong". Gadfly Online.
  34. ^ "Back Home Season 1 Trailer - Diego Luna, Robert Rodriguez, Michael Peña, Alexis Bledel". Canana Presenta. April 10, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  35. ^ "ABOUT BACK HOME". Fusion. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  36. ^ McBride, Walter (May 16, 2014). "Photo Coverage: UNDER MY SKIN Takes Opening Night Bows". Broadwayworld.com.
  37. ^ a b Davis, Carlo (August 10, 2014). "On Pier A, a bulwark for live music". The Hudson Reporter.
  38. ^ Mach, Neil (June 25, 2014). "Allison Strong is the One". Raw Ramp.
  39. ^ Testa, Jim (August 15, 2014). "Bilingual Union City songwriter Allison Strong releases debut album with two area performances". NJ.com.
  40. ^ Gioia, Michael (July 24, 2013). "Volleygirls and Mamma Mia!‍ '​s Allison Strong Will Celebrate EP Release With Rockwood Concert". Playbill.

External links[edit]