When Valerie Scott and Raymond Patterson were "teeny boppers" growing up in the District, they used to sing and dance and dream of becoming stars. Scott, from Northwest and Patterson, from Southwest, didn't know each other then a decade ago. But like thousands of other youths coming of age then, they were touched by a special era of black music.
The words and rhythms in that music became a part of their lives, and they popped their fingers and kicked up their heels to the beats at house parties, in school hallways and on street corners.
"We grew up on these songs," said Patterson, a graduate of Ballou High School in Southeast who later earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland.
Now the two Washington natives are professional performers, and they're singing and dancing to some of those old rhythm and blues tunes in a musical called "Dancin' in the Street!" which runs through Sunday at Ford's Theatre. The colorful show highlights the music of the 1960s with dancing, singing and choreography.
In the musical, Scott, 21, and Patterson, 27, join Anna Green, 25, who has lived in the District since 1977, and five other performers who hail from Boston where the musical was created. Most of the 33 oldies-but-goodies soul songs in the show were originally produced by the Motown Recording Co., which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
One reviewer said the musical renditions in the show, which was directed and choreographed by Billy Wilson of "Bubbling Brown Sugar," "Eubie" and "Guys and Dolls," too closely imitated the original Motown artists, but the same reviewer found the production entertaining and engaging.
Scott and Patterson attended D.C. public schools through high school. Scott, who temporarily left her studies at Howard University to be in the show, attended Kenilworth Elementary and Deal Junior High schools before graduating from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in 1980. Patterson went to Patterson Elementary, Hart Junior High and Ballou.
Their school days were typical, Scott and Patterson recalled. As hits by such artists as Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Jackson Five were heard on a radio, youngsters formed impromptu singing groups of their own at neighborhood recreation centers or on street corners and imitated the performers. This was one facet of growing up in Washington during that time, and it influenced both youngsters' desire to seriously pursue the performing arts.
"When I saw people, like Marvin Gaye, singing on television, I would scream because they were so good. They were where I wanted to be someday," said Scott, smiling. "I was in singing groups from elementary through high school. We practiced to records or a cappella. We won school talent shows. We rehearsed everywhere--basements, laundry rooms, by the soda machine rooms at school, on the bus."
Scott, making her professional debut in "Dancin'," said, "My girlfriends and I used to pretend we were the Supremes. We'd put on our mothers' dresses and pumps and wigs and we swore we were stars."
Patterson said he has performed on the legitimate stage for six years. He started his career in a local singing group called the "Four Steps Beyond."
The group worked with several D.C. bands, including Experience Unlimited and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, and once had an opportunity to open a show for the Commodores and the Miracles in Greensboro, N.C.
Patterson, who has performed in Sicily, elsewhere in Europe and Venezuela, lives in New York and has appeared in several Broadway productions, including the revival of "Hair."
Anna Greene, who has made Washington her home, is originally from Lenoir, N.C., near Winston-Salem. A performing arts major, she graduated from American University in 1981. "Dancin'" marks her theatrical debut.
A lover of dance, she said recently that "as long as I'm moving, I'm happy. It's hard for me to calm down." But she added: "I'm learning to balance it out."