Students at Moorestown’s William Allen Middle School will present Disney’s “High School Musical Jr.” from Feb. 24 through the 27.
The students’ last performance before COVID was “Grease.”
“This summer, hoping … that we were coming back to some sort of normalcy, we decided let’s do an easy production and let’s do ‘Disney Jr.’ because it comes with all of the music and it’s much shorter,” said Susan Maurer, the school’s theater director.
Despite setbacks such as snow days, Maurer praised the students’ dedication, including that of Moorestown High School’s Bobby Closkey, Kelly Hall, Asha Patel and Kylie Llewellyn. Hall and Llewellyn volunteer as stage managers, Patel volunteers as a costume designer and costume assistant and Closkey volunteers as a props manager.
“These kids have been phenomenal; they are amazing, they love the theater, they pick up quickly, they learn their lines,” Maurer noted. “This group of children, their hunger to learn and to do better and to really work hard at something … they’re almost (working) a second job.”
Eighth graders Juliet Barton, Ivan Denissov, Anna Woltjen, Mina Moriuchi and Peter Simpson and seventh grader Ella Hovnanian described performing a school show for the first time since COVID.
“It’s so amazing to be back,” Barton said. “This is kind of where I’ve grown up, so it’s always great to be back on a real stage.”
“You’ve got to remember to have fun with it,” Denissov noted. “If you take theater way too seriously, then you’re just going to be standing there, sweating, and your character will be horrible.”
“You just have to remember that you signed up for this, (and) you’re supposed to have fun.”
Moriuchi has advice for theater students.
“You’ve got to put yourself into the performance, because a performance is more than just reading lines and singing words, it’s about putting yourself onto the stage and just being you through your character,” she explained.
Vocal Director Hope Knight explained the selection of “High School Musical Jr.” as this year’s show and praised the students.
“I wanted a show that was going to be easy for the students to kind of wrap their brains around, especially after hybrid learning and crisis learning,” she said.
“When we got into this, and to see the overly positive response and how willing everyone was to join – especially these tireless high-school helpers that come back and volunteer all of their time – was just beautiful,” Knight added.