Hannah Manuit: life in the musical theater

Junior Hannah Manuit stands center stage, directly beneath the spotlight, with hundreds in the crowd before her. Ever since she was 12 years old, she has devoted her life to musical theater. In the summer of 2014, she joined the Top Billing Entertainment Performance Academy, a non-profit organization in Glendora.

Her dedication to musical theater began after watching her first musical in the Hyperion Theater at Disney’s California Adventure: “The Aladdin Musical Spectacular.”

“At that point, I fell in love with musical theater. I never stopped since,” Manuit said. “It’s such a joy being around people who are so dedicated to put on a show for an audience.”

Over the past three years, Manuit’s developed her passion to the performing arts at school when she joined choir and cheer to have a chance on stage.

“I’ve liked musical theater for as long as I can remember. Just seeing the audience fill up the seats of the theater makes me want to connect with every person that took their time to be there,” Manuit said.

Her first performance on stage in the academy was “Beauty and the Beast” in 2014. Now, she strives to perform in at least four musicals a year at the Top Billing Academy and acts in front of an audience of about 300 to 400 people per professional show.

“Something about being able to take the audience away from all their problems and entertain them for two hours or so gives me a sort of rush. I really hope to continue performing for as long as I can,” Manuit said. “I remember being in the audience when I was younger and I left the theater feeling inspired and in utter amazement. I want to be able to give the audience that same feeling when I’m on stage.”

Practicing approximately 11 hours a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and the weekends, Manuit helps choreograph children’s musicals. Along with other drama high school students, she also starred in a PG-13 show, “Hairspray.”

“If I’m not able to pursue [musical theater] in the future, I’ll always have the skills it taught me, like how to speak in front of an audience and manage my time. [I’ve learned] things like teamwork and responsibilities to make a show run smoothly,” Manuit said.

She has performed musicals at different theaters, including the Baldwin Park Performing Arts Center and the Bonita Center for the Arts. Manuit starred in Top Billing’s most recent production, Legally Blonde, at the Whittier Center Theater on Oct. 26, 27 and 29.

“The jitters and nerves are kicking in,” Manuit said. “I am so excited [for Legally Blonde], I have no words for the joy I feel right now with the audience taking their seats and the curtain eager to open. It’s something I enjoy doing, and it’s hard to imagine life without it.”

By Jeremy Hsiao, Staff writer

Photo by Samuel Compolongo