Into the Spotlight
Aug 31, 2023
Thaddeus D. Matula
Christi Davenport, Cindy Johnston, Jason Carter, Sally Smith, Kinsey Boozer
A group of people with disabilities take part in an annual event where they get to perform in a musical production.
This event is the Spotlight Musical Theater, which takes place once a year and is part of the Belong Disability Program at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas and its purpose is for twenty-seven participants with disabilities to have the opportunity to develop, rehearse and mend an original musical. The cast get to work with an artistic team and volunteers in order to make this objective a reality.
Into the Spotlight is a documentary that explores the people involved and their hard work that led to the 11th Spotlight event during the 2021-2022 season. It begins by introducing participants as they receive a phone call from the organisers informing them that they have been chosen and then moves on to the theater, where they meet with director Lisa Schmidt and co-director Mark Guerra and discuss their upcoming project. Together, they make plans, support each other and drive to make a show that serves as the climax of the feature. Along the way, they will mourn the passing of one of the organisers, celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and find out more about themselves.
The selected performers (and the ones who work on the sets, etc.) are the stars of the Spotlight show and of the documentary. They include Christi Davenport, Cindy Johnston, Jason Carter, Sally Smith and Andrea Parton. Between them, they have a variety of conditions such as down syndrome or autism and one of them is transgender. The film follows them as they actively pursue their dream of being part of a stage musical and also looks into their private lives and personal struggles, including Davenport's, who is mourning the loss of her husband, Daniel Wade's, who has faced discrimination and Parton's, who goes through life as a transgender. All of them have differences, however, they have many things in common, including having a deep appreciation of life and a desire to challenge themselves and achieve.
There is no voice-over, which can be unusual for a documentary, instead the voices belong to the participants, who are interviewed and enthusiastically talk about themselves, why they want to be part of Spotlight and their struggles with disability and other issues. Composer Sam Marshall makes a very positive contribution with the beautiful score.
This informative and heart-warming documentary does a great job in presenting to the world a fantastic event that provides individuals with disabilities the chance to be creative and make their dreams come true. And of course, it reveals that people can overcome their disabilities and prove that they are capable of wonderful things.