Apollo Smile has a show-stopping name and a career to match. The Guilford native's danced, sung, acted, and stunt-doubled her way down just about every entertainment avenue from here to Hollywood.
Now, she's back to support her hometown as choreographer of Dear Edwina, Jr., the latest offering from Guilford Youth & Family Services (GYFS) Family Theatre. The family friendly musical's set for Feb. 18 and 19 in the Guilford High School (GHS)auditorium.
Choreographing Dear Edwina closes a full-circle story that once again has Apollo working with director Pat Souney. More than 20 years ago, Souney gave Apollo her first shot at professional choreography. Souney hired Apollo, a dancer and gymnast since age 3, to choreograph a Nutmeg Players musical.
"I was 13 telling 70 year-olds how to dance!" recalls Apollo. "But they were all wonderful, very respectful and cooperative."
Back then, Apollo was known as Paula Scharf, a GHS musical dance captain and student choreographer. After graduating in 1985, Apollo began three years of study with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York City. That's where Paula became Apollo, thanks to a hasty introduction to a "college guy" in a noisy restaurant.
"He said, 'Nice to meet you.' I said, 'Hi, I'm Paula,' and he heard Apollo! He knew his mythology and even though Apollo's a male god, he said, 'That name defines you…Apollo represents music, dance, light, and poetry.' So, I stuck with it."
Next, an injury gave Apollo a reason to head to Hollywood to start a singing career, signing a deal with Geffen Records. Apollo's producer suggested she change her last name, too.
"He said, 'One of your greatest attributes is your smile, why not Smile?' I loved it. I've been Apollo Smile ever since. I legally changed my name in 1991," she says. "It's worked for me."
In addition to dancing and singing (Apollo released a self-titled CD and her single "Thunder Box" joined the gold-record sound track of the hit movie Days of Thunder), Apollo stretched her interest toward other entertainment mediums. She spent several years touring as the live-action anime character "Apollo Smile." When a hit Japanese television show then animated her character, Apollo voiced the role.
An accomplished martial artist, Apollo also toured for two years with 78 martial artists in the live action show Art of War.
"We worked everywhere from the East Coast to the West Coast. That was fabulous fun."
That work led to film/TV stunt work in Los Angeles and New York. Apollo was a stunt- and body double for actress Brittany Murphy in the movie Uptown Girls and doubled for Kelly Ripa on TV's Hope and Faith.
"I also stunt-doubled for Cheryl Ladd. She was a dancer, too. She showed me tap between breaks-double time-she was going for it!" says Apollo, laughing.
Apollo's most recent stunt work was for the actress playing the daughter of Kiefer Sutherland's character on TV's 24.
Through all her success, Apollo kept on dancing and kept in touch with her Guilford roots. She returned here in 2006 to be with her mom and dad after her mom became ill. The move brought Apollo's career in dance and choreography back into focus.
"Pat [Souney] was probably the first person I called when I knew I was moving back to Connecticut. She said, 'Call New Haven Ballet, I know they're looking for a ballet teacher.'"
Apollo's been teaching for the company (Guilford and New
Haven) ever since. She also leads classes with Dance Corner (Killingworth) and Body in Motion (Guilford). Apollo's choreographed several local high school stage productions recently, including, GHS's Seussical, Hello, Dolly!, and, in December 2009, Cinderella.
"It reminds me how, when I was their age, Pat showed me how to be a good leader and to go forward with my profession. I hope I'm passing the torch," says Apollo.
The circle's really complete now that Apollo's working with GHS freshman Ashley Malafronte as her assistant choreographer for Dear Edwina, Jr.
"I'm giving her one musical routine and letting her really sink her teeth into it. I'm so glad Guilford Youth & Family Services is offering such a great community project. I want my work to be as closely associated to the community I live in as possible. I want to do anything I can do to broaden kids' experiences in the arts."
GYFS Guilford Family Theatre presents Dear Edwina, Jr., a
musical for kids of all ages, on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. and on Friday, Feb. 19 at 2 and 7 p.m. (snow day is Saturday, Feb. 20) in the Guilford High School auditorium, 605 New England Road. Tickets, $10, are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at GYFS, 36 Graves Avenue, or by emailing email@example.com or calling 203-453-8047. Family discounts are available on request.