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Murray Journal

Hillcrest celebrates 20 years of student musicals, Riverview shows reach a dozen years

Mar 05, 2019 03:03PM ● By Julie Slama

Brainy Martha (played by Maili Valero) upsets the “Status Quo” by admitting that she thinks dancing is more fun than homework in Hillcrest Junior High’s production of “High School Musical, Jr.” (Photo courtesy of Hillcrest Junior High)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

While Hillcrest Junior High choir teacher Krystin Elder has been the musical director with school musicals in the past, this is her first year being the director.

“This is my 19th year involved in musicals at Hillcrest; I missed the first,” Elder said. “It’s a big commitment, a lot of work, and the kids love it.”

The musicals started under Becky Williams, who directed “Into the Woods, Jr.,” and continued to direct musicals until the past 10 years when Jewell Loveless took over as director. The tradition with the school musicals has continued to grow every year, Elder said.  

“Every year, it gets more embedded into our culture,” she said. 

This year, Elder selected “High School Musical, Jr.” as it involves a lot of students. Her cast is comprised of 80 students as well as a stage crew of 10 and five tech theatre students.

Ninth-grader Case Elliott plays Troy; eighth-grader Olivia Shelton is Gabriella; ninth-grader Hannah Elder is Taylor; ninth-grader Brayden Hales is Chad; ninth-grader Charlee George is Sharpay; seventh-grader Leis Larsen is Ryan; and ninth-grader Kate Brown is Kelsi.

The show will be performed at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 13 through Saturday, March 16 at Hillcrest Junior High’s stage, 178 E. 5300 South. General admission tickets are $5.

However, before Hillcrest students take their stage, Riverview Junior High students will take theirs, with the performance of “Doo Wop Wed Widing Hood.” Their show, the 12th in recent years, will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 5 through Thursday, March 7 at Riverview, 751 Tripp Lane. Tickets for the 70-minute show are $5.

Riverview’s “Doo Wop Wed Widing Hood” 

Riverview’s show is directed by Wendy Smedshammer, with choreography by Jennifer Davies. Traci Black is the show’s producer.

“I love this show,” Black said, adding that it is a family-friendly production set in the 1950s. “It has tons of parts, 19 of which are name parts. There are lead dancers and fun characters with quirky personalities.”

About 60 Riverview students are in the show that had its auditions in December and began rehearsals in January. Ten students are on stage crew. 

Ninth-grader Kyara Griggs plays Little Wed Widing Hood; ninth-grader Elizabeth Meyers is the evil queen; and seventh-grader Keira Larsen is the fairy godmother.

“For some students, this is their first time being in a show. It gives kids a chance to see if it’s something they like and if so, they can continue in high school with it or try out for community theatre,” Black said. “They’re learning how to put together a show from doing their own costumes to developing their own characters. It’s all student done; it’s their moment to shine.”

Through the musical, Black said students learn dancing skills, learn how to project their voices, are able to share emotions on stage and make new friends.

“It’s a fractured fairytale with lots of toe-tapping music that is memorable. When people leave after the show, they’ll leave with a happy feeling inside and students will know they helped take people’s worries away and give them a better place during their performance,” she said.

Hillcrest’s “High School Musical, Jr.”

Like Riverview, Elder hopes the musical brings “wonderful opportunities for students, and in doing so, making friends to become like a family.”

“The kids are excited because they know this musical and the songs,” she said. “It’s a diverse group, with different cliques coming together and they can relate to it. There are the expectations of students whether they’re jocks, brains, skaters, theatre kids and musicians — but they’re wanting people to know that there is more to them than that and together, they’re a stronger group. That is what we’re representing – overcoming divisions to strive for unity.”

Elder said much of what they learn translates to real life.

“We’re wanting our students to show teamwork, positive behavior and learn inclusion, especially as our school becomes more diverse, we need to be more accepting and include everyone,” she said.

She hopes to bridge the tradition of each cast with an introductory slideshow of previous casts and musicals as well as include alumni in the last number.

Assisting Elder is Jennifer Allred-Salvesen and Jessica Pearce. Head choreographer is Victoria Bean and technical director is Austin Woodall.

“This is my first time I can bring my vision to the stage,” Elder said. “It has made me appreciate all that magically happened the past years.”