With La La Land an early favorite for Golden Globe and Oscar honors, members of the Macombers are no doubt cheering the revival of the Hollywood musical. And for one of these singing ambassadors, the film may remind of another palm-treed haven of which many dreams have been made.
“When I was 15, my mom was transferred to Maui,” relates Veronica Russell, who grew up in Ortonville in Oakland County. “We drove to California, flew to Hawaii and lived in a hotel for a few months before we found an apartment. I’m so glad to have had that experience. Back then, though, it was a little hard. I missed my friends.”
While Maui offered many sunny distractions, Veronica spent a fair share of her time in high school productions. When she was invited to join the Macombers in 2016, her repertoire included My Fair Lady, Phantom of the Opera and Cinderella. She had moved back to Michigan by then, after the pull of other family, friends and snow proved too great to resist.
“My dad had just moved from Georgia to Clinton Township and offered me a place to stay. I had never been to Macomb County before, all I knew was that it had a great community college,” relates Veronica, a history major. “My aunt was a Macomber in the 1980s, and she encouraged me to audition. I was too scared the first year, but last spring decided to try. I absolutely love it.”
The Macombers rehearse five hours a week, average 40 performances a year and receive scholarships to compensate for the time they dedicate to the troupe. For Veronica, shown here before a Macombers’ performance with a very special guest, there is also something else that keeps her singing.
“It’s the friendships,” she says. “I miss my mom, who lives on the Big Island now, but I’ve had so much fun here. Macomb is the first school where I have ever really thrived.”