Take a few dozen students, some dedicated teachers and many days of rehearsal and you can create something special. At least that’s what’s happening at the new Oxford Middle School where they are now just days away from the first performance of Disney’s High School Musical Jr. on Nov. 6.
“I wanted to involve a lot of kids,” said Debra Anderson, drama teacher and director of the show. “This is our first time using this big stage. It celebrates diversity and change, which is what we are going through moving to this new big campus. It seemed like a good fit.”
In the show, a high school basketball star (Troy) and a shy but smart new student (Gabriella) figure out that they share a love of singing. They audition for lead roles in the school musical and that sends those at the school who want to preserve the status quo into a tailspin.
Seventh-grader Max Mobley plays the basketball star.
“He is trying to break away from his friends, because he wants to sing with Gabriella. All of his friends don’t want him to sing, but he really does,” Mobley said.
Being willing to defy your friends and go your own way is a major theme of the show, as is learning to deal with difficult characters like Sharpay and Ryan Evans.
“We are kind of the mean people. We run the drama department and we are mean to a lot of people,” said seventh-grader Prowell Smith, who plays Ryan. “We try to steal the show.”
Tickets for the musical’s three performances are on sale now for $5 each. They can be purchased at the OMS school store or at the door before the shows begin at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6, 7 and 8 in the school’s Kayla Mize Auditorium.
OMS chorus director Jordan Caviezel is in charge of musical and technical direction, and Ole Miss theatre student Bryce Slocumb has choreographed the show. Anderson says the production would not have been possible without their help.
Eighth-graders Lydia Field (Gabriella) and Macy Robinson (Sharpay) say their biggest challenges in the musical involve trying to make their acting realistic and getting the show’s timing down. The boys say that’s not what they find toughest.
“The worst part is learning the dance moves because it’s a lot of learning. It’s pretty hard,” said Smith.
Anderson agrees the preparation is intense, but says the lessons students learn from drama will stay with them long after the curtain goes down.
“I think they say it best in the show. It teaches people to work together, solve problems and see things differently than you can see in a textbook.”
Ole Miss journalism graduate student Marlen Polito reported this story.
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