Musical a hit for student actors, audience
By Eric A Thomas
The theater program at Jacksonville Middle School has expanded their offerings to include musicals. Their inaugural production was a success and is now in the books.
Performed on the stage for a one-weekend run was “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.,” directed by JMS (Jacksonville Middle School) theater teacher Shawn Smith. The one-hour production was
performed March 3-5 in the auditorium at the school. In addition to Smith as director, JMS vocal music instructor Christine Smith served as vocal director, teaching the entire cast all the songs. Serving as choreographer was Jill Alexander.
Making up the cast were 22 students from sixth, seventh and eighth grades at JMS and they rehearsed for a period of eight weeks. “The students were so excited to do this show and they had such a great time. I had an awesome time watching them grow and come out of their shells,” commented director Shawn Smith.
A good percentage of the students involved had never been in a musical. “Watching them gain confidence in themselves as they realized they could do it, is the one of the reasons I do this,” Smith added. “I love that we have the vehicle of the musical for those students who need a place to be themselves.”
In addition to the performers on stage, there were many students involved in creating props and working backstage for the production.
The show revives the catchy 1970s Saturday morning animated series, “Schoolhouse Rock!” The main character, “Tom,” is a nervous schoolteacher about to start his first day of teaching. He tries to relax with a little TV when various characters representing facets of his personality materialize from the television set. Tom is at first hesitant to accept help; but with a little friendly prodding, they help Tom see how great a teacher he has been all along.
The part of Tom in “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.” was played by Vincent Karr. The five characters who help him realize just how good he is were “Dori,” played by Hannah Warren; “Shulie,” played by Bailey Pollard; “Dina,” played by Candace Phipps; “Joe,” played by Renae Goodsell; and “George,” played by Cooper Stowers.
One of the audience members, Maryjane Bradbury, had this to share about her experience attending the JMS production: “I was very impressed with the acting, singing and the overall performance. The show was entertaining and choreographed well. It was apparent the students worked hard.”
Director Shawn Smith concluded, “I want to thank the support of our principal, Mrs. [Celeste] Lashmett, and [Jacksonville School District #117] superintendent Mr. Ptacek for being open to doing a musical.”
Smith has been teaching theater and doing shows at JMS for seven years. The future looks bright for doing other musicals at JMS.