Kelsey Rae has been entertaining audiences all her life with electrifying energy and a golden voice.
It began in Auburn where she first stepped onto the stage at age 5 as the spunky orphan Molly in the beloved Tony Award-winning musical “Annie.” It continues throughout a career that has taken Rae to many venues, near and far – from Green River College to the Auburn Avenue Theater, from the 5th Avenue Theatre to Broadway.
Even Madison Avenue came calling, a connection that led to more than a dozen major television commercial appearances.
The 11-year-old Rae sang the national anthem at a Seattle Seahawks game. She turned down the Mickey Mouse Club – the same year Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake joined– to pursue a role on Broadway’s “Gypsy”
Today the vocalist, choreographer and author delivers more than song and dance. She performs for a cause, is an ambassador for the environment and a singer fueled by the sound for sustainability.
Rae belongs to Vocal Trash, a high-energy troupe from Texas composed of a diverse blend of environmental performers who have been engaging audiences throughout the U.S. for about 18 years. Described as “Glee” meets “Stomp”, Vocal Trash asks everyone to recycle and protect the environment with an urban-themed, Broadway-style production that blends pop, rock, swing and classic tunes. The show includes original instrumentation, light-hearted comedy and explosive break-dancing.
Rae comes full circle when she returns to the place where it all began as a kid – the Auburn Ave – for Vocal Trash’s 7:30 p.m. performance on Friday, May 5.
Rae, a 1996 Auburn High School graduate who grew up around the Ave, looks forward to reuniting with family and friends.
“It definitely was in my blood,” Rae said of entertaining, “and I had no idea that the training I had when I was little would continue throughout the rest of my life. You live a dream, but I guess I never envisioned it necessarily. …
“I’ve always loved what we did and always loved to perform,” said Rae, 39, who lives in Kirkland when she isn’t on the road, performing coast to coast and occasionally, overseas. “But to have purpose and to really see the impact that we leave on these kids … that’s what keeps me going. … Knowing that we’re going to leave a footprint. There’s no better way to communicate than through music.
“We grow every year … every year there’s something new that I haven’t thought of before that allows us to change the show … put it in a different direction,” Rae said. “The environment is a very prominent thing that people are becoming more aware of and wanting to be involved.”
The group began performing a capella but now plays industrial instruments made from items like toolboxes and gas cans. They’ve added members and instruments over the years, but the group’s purpose remains resolute – educating audiences about sustainability. They do programs for schools and corporate events, in addition to theater.
The troupe is scheduled to visit Mongolia this week before heading to Auburn.
“It’s entertainment with a conscience,” said Steve Linder, creator of Vocal Trash. “We have one foot in the green industry and one foot in performance industry. But we feel very strongly that it’s not about being a money maker, it’s a way to give back.”
Reaching youngsters is especially gratifying for Rae. Changing the way people consume and recycle products, including plastics, must be taught early, she said, and doing more to save the planet must be a unifying, worldwide effort.
“These kids have the spirit, and I really do believe that we will head in the right direction,” she said. “I see the inspiration that we bring to the kids and all around for every age.”
Linder and Ray form a good team. Rae brings Broadway-style staging and choreography skills. She also wrote, “THINK … Before You Throw It Away” (Amazon), a childrens book released in 2014 that’s now in its third printing. The book embodies THINK, a children education program that has taken the troupe to elementary schools throughout Texas and the country.
“We got a great tool,” Linder said of the show and its purpose. “We’re making audiences so happy and using this opportunity for a greater good.”
Tickets are $23 regular, $20 for students and seniors. Call 253-931-3043 or order online for will call-only pickup through Brown Paper Tickets at www.auburnwa.gov/arts. For more information on the band, visit vocaltrash.net.