Summit Academy students learned musical theatre, life skills with ‘High School Musical Jr.’ performance
May 07, 2020 11:23AM
By Julie Slama
Summit Academy Junior High School students Jackson Hughes and Addie Hoopes played brother-sister Ryan and Sharpay Evans in the school’s performance of “High School Musical, Jr.” in February. (Photo courtesy of Summit Academy)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
About 50 Summit Academy Junior High students decided they wanted to learn something new – and have fun at the same time.
These students were part of “High School Musical, Jr.” in late February, which not only drew crowds to be entertained in their school auditorium, but also gave them an opportunity to learn about musical theatre, said director Aimee Rohling.
“They really wanted to take it on,” she said. “There’s some tough harmonies and it’s a fast-moving show. The kids worked so hard.”
Although Summit Academy offers six different theater courses, auditions were open for all sixth- through eighth-grade students. After tryouts in mid-October, the cast was announced, including the lead role of Troy Bolton being played by Blake Hullinger and lead role of Gabriella Montez double-cast between Tess Benton and Olivia Hulme.
Other parts include the role of Sharpay Evans double-cast between Willa Grimmer and Addie Hoopes; the role of Ryan Evans played by Jackson Hughes; the role of Taylor McKessie double-cast between Isabella Carmona and Desirae Rodriguez; the role of Chad Danforth performed by Tyler Jordan; the role of Mrs. Darbus double-cast between Hadley Jensen and Lizzie Bodell; and the role of Coach Bolton played by Kayson Seamons.
Three- to five-hour per week rehearsals began in November and continued for the next three to four months.
“These kids have so much to do every day with sports and other things. This way, kids can have a life, a balance to be able to do something cool at their school while doing other things,” Rohling said.
Taking a cue from the main song from the musical, “We’re All in This Together,” their first meeting was reading part of the script and learning some music, but then the students finished reading the script on their own.
“This has been a more independent group of kids. They’ve wanted to learn more. Even a group of them has wanted to help produce the show and have been stage crew when they haven’t been performing on stage,” Rohling said.
In addition, eight students helped with designing the set. Ivan Sonnenberg was the show’s student director.
Some of the costumes they designed and some they borrowed from the production of “High School Musical” at East High, where part of the original Disney film was shot.
“When I first came to Summit 13 years ago, ‘High School Musical’ was huge. It’s funny how it’s come back with its popularity,” she said. “It works well for a large cast and a lot of stage time. The students asked to do it last spring and were really excited about doing it.”
Using some of the Disney-provided ideas for the musical and some of her own, Rohling choreographed numbers and brought in teacher Alan Larson to help students with the music.
Through it all, Rohling said students learned vocabulary, the standard of how to put on a musical, music, creating movement, what characters do when they’re on stage, self-direction, and life skills such as teamwork, active listening, problem-solving, creativity, communication and public speaking.
“They have become a lot more confident,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing to see where they started to where they finished and to see their parents who haven’t seen this side of them before, be so proud of their kids. They’re taking a leap of faith and putting trust into what they’ve learned – and it’s great to see their parents, family, friends and the community come support them.”