Miss Americanas Conjure Taylor Swift Spirit

WARREN, Ohio – Starting a Taylor Swift tribute act is a daunting task.

The world’s biggest pop star is idolized by countless fans and her tour last year was a juggernaut that shattered every sales record.

So when Valley-based Taylor Swift tribute act Miss Americanas booked its debut show at the Robins Theatre in Warren last summer, the singers and producers held their breath.

“We didn’t know how it would go,” says Makayla McIntosh, who assembled the act for her production company, Castle on a Cloud. “Would we have to win over the crowd?”

As it turned out, the Taylor Swift aura smoothed the way.

The crowd of mostly girls and young women was excited before the show even started.

“They were decked out to the nines,” McIntosh says. Friendship bracelets and other traditions of the Taylor Swift fanbase were everywhere.

“It felt like a big celebration of the community that Taylor Swift created,” she notes.

The Miss Americanas show does not attempt to recreate a Taylor Swift concert.

But with live music, choreography and multiple vocal parts, it definitely conjures the spirit of the superstar’s performances.

The first show sold 800 tickets, making it one of the top-selling tribute shows at the Robins.

The act – named for the Taylor Swift song “Miss Americana” – returned to the Robins earlier this month. McIntosh is now working on booking shows in other cities and already has a few lined up.

The act consists of Canfield native Cara DeChurch and Angela Cole of Cleveland.

The first show had a third singer, Lauren Jones of Canfield, but she has since left after being hired for a touring production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

DeChurch has been an actor and singer most of her life.

A graduate of the Institute of American Musical Theatre in New York, she has been working with Castle on a Cloud Productions since she was a teenager, appearing in princess parties and other events.

Before she graduated from Canfield High School, DeChurch was cast in shows at Crown Theater in Columbiana, Kent-Trumbull Theater and Millennial Theatre Company.

How It Started

The idea to launch a Taylor Swift tribute act was born of the Robins Theatre’s desire to reach younger audiences.

McIntosh, DeChurch and others from Castle on a Cloud Productions came up with the idea after a meeting with Robins staff.

When it came time to decide who would head up the project, “They all kind of looked at me because I had been a Taylor Swift fan from the get-go,” DeChurch recalls.

She began working on the show, which consumed most of her summer, last year.

“We first reached out to Angela Cole, who I had just worked with in making [the film] ‘Gemini,’” she says. DeChurch and Cole are the co-leads in the film, which got its premiere in February at Main Street Theater in Columbiana.

Next, they brought in Lauren Jones, who went to high school with DeChurch and also attended IAMT in New York.

DeChurch came up with a set list and dance numbers and worked with the sound and lighting crew on technical aspects.

The show came on the heels of Swift’s summer stadium tour, which broke every concert record for tickets sold – and ticket prices.

Swifties who were unable to score tickets to one of her concerts were eager to see the Miss Americanas.

“The crowd had such a great time,” DeChurch says. “Young girls were coming up to the stage, wanting us to have their friendship bracelets. Between the three of us, we got at least 50.”

The duties of being a surrogate Swift were not lost on DeChurch.

“I looked out there at the audience and realized how many kids, parents and families wouldn’t ever be able to see her perform live. I couldn’t see her, and I’ve been a fan for so long,” she says. “I felt very humbled by the whole experience. When you’re able to bring a bit of that magic to people who might not otherwise be able to experience it, it’s rewarding.”

As she watched the audience singing along to the songs, DeChurch knew that the Swift fan experience had been created in some small measure.

“We didn’t have to be Taylor Swift” for it to happen, she notes.

Show producer McIntosh agrees.

“What worked in our favor is Taylor Swift had already created a community of people who love to be together,” she says.

Prices for Swift’s stadium concerts soared well above $1,000, which was another factor in her favor. For $15 to $35, Swifties who couldn’t see her live at least got a chance to get as close to the experience as possible, McIntosh says.

Some of Swift’s lyrics are aimed solely at adults, but a Miss Americanas show keeps it family friendly, she stresses.

McIntosh intends to expand the show and keep it going. She’s trying to put together a roster of singers who could fill in when needed.

The Company

McIntosh grew up in Newton Falls, Ohio, and now splits her time between the Mahoning Valley, New York and Vancouver, Canada,

She started Castle on a Cloud when she was 16 years old and she has kept the company going with the help of her co-performers and also her husband.

The company started with modest intentions.

McIntosh and some of her aunts and cousins, who were seamstresses and hairstylists, put together a raffle basket. The top prize was a visit from McIntosh, who would appear as a princess at a party for young girls.

“They loved it and I started getting calls for more parties,” she says. “Nobody else was doing this around here.”

After high school, McIntosh studied at Belmont University in Tennessee but kept her company going.

She appeared in some Broadway-style shows after college and also performed aboard Disney Cruise Lines ships.

A professional dancer, she also toured with a company doing “A Chorus Line.” Most recently, she has been pursuing a career in acting.

New Album

Similarly, DeChurch also started young as an actor.

While in high school, she appeared in shows at Crown Theater Company in Columbiana, Kent-Trumbull Theater and Millennial Theatre Company.

But her first love always has been music and she is pursuing a career as a pop singer.

DeChurch released her first album of original music, “Mosaic of a Broken Heart,” on March 22. The songs can be streamed on all platforms.

She wrote all of the songs, collaborating with her brother, Alexander DeChurch. She’ll perform her own songs and do a Taylor Swift tribute segment in a solo show June 14 at The Rialto Theatre in Akron.

The songs on her new album show all of her different sides.

“We all go through bad times,” she says. “[The album] is a journey that shows where I was and where I ended up. It’s meant to be encouraging. It ends in a different place than where it started.”

Pictured at top: The Miss Americanas onstage during their premiere performance at the Robins Theatre. From left, they are Angela Cole, Cara DeChurch and Lauren Jones.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.