Local Girl Performs with Broadway Stars


Cary Miller visits NiswongerGREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Nine-year-old Virginia Pillion, of Abingdon, Va., got the chance of a lifetime when she won a talent search that allowed her to perform on stage with several Broadway stars. Virginia is the daughter of Amanda Pillion and pediatric dentist Dr. Todd Pillion.

Virginia, a third-grader at Abingdon Elementary School, won the recent Niswonger Children’s Hospital Youth Talent Search, giving her the opportunity to perform with Gary Mauer, Denise DiRenzo, David Elder and Cary Miller, all Broadway stars. The event was called “One Singular Sensational Evening,” and benefited Niswonger Children’s Hospital. It was held on March 17 at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville. The Charles Goodwin Orchestra provided music, conducted by Michael Horsley, from New York.

From the Talent Search auditions, five finalists and 11 ensemble members were chosen, and Virginia was ultimately chosen as the winner.

The experience was an inspiring one, said Virginia’s mother, Amanda Pillion. “She was very enamored with (the Broadway performers),” Mrs. Pillion said. “She wanted to know all about everything they did.

Virginia added, “They were very nice. They taught me a lot.”

“She’s been to New York and seen some shows on Broadway, so she’s definitely got the bug,” her mom said. Virginia agreed, saying that she hopes to be on Broadway someday.

Cookie McKinney, manager of Children’s Initiatives for Mountain States Foundation, said, “Virginia is an extremely talented, focused young lady. She understands the work we do at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, and throughout the process of our auditions and the show, worked very hard to help us raise funds and awareness for the hospital. We are so very grateful for all her efforts on behalf of our young patients and families.”

The Broadway stars were:

  • Gary Mauer, who most recently starred in the Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” playing the Phantom.
  • Denise DiRenzo, who has performed on Broadway in “Cats,” “A Chorus Line,” the original company of “42nd Street” and “Sophisticated Ladies,” with Gregory Hines.
  • David Elder, who recently completed the national tour of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” in which he played Phil Davis, made famous by Danny Kaye. He also starred in “Damn Yankees” and “42nd Street.”
  • Cary Miller, who is also a child life specialist. She has performed on Broadway in “Saturday Night Fever” and the national tours of “Little Women” and “Seussical.” Her regional performances include “State Fair,” “Peter Pan” and “A Chorus Line.”

As for Virginia and the “One Singular Sensational Evening” event, Mrs. Pillion said, “It was wonderful. The whole experience was lots of fun for her. She had a ball. It was a very positive experience.”

Virginia sings in the children’s choir at her church, and has performed at Barter Theatre in Abingdon in “Annie,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol.” She was also in “Music Man” in Knoxville.

“I think ‘Annie’ was my favorite because it was my first show,” Virginia said.

Mrs. Pillion said Virginia decided when she was in the first grade that she wanted to audition for “Annie” at Barter. So she did, and she won the role of Molly, “a pretty sizeable role for a little kid,” said her mother.

“It’s quite an experience. She thrives on it, it’s what she wants to do, so you try to make it happen if you can.”

She added that Virginia likes to sing, but she loves to act.

Does she ever get stage fright? “I get a little nervous, but not much,” Virginia said.

“I think I get more nervous than she does,” her mother said, laughing.

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