RHS Musical Theatre performs ‘Moana Jr.’
Russellville High School Musical Theatre presented six shows of Disney’s “Moana Jr.” over the course of a two-day period, March 25 and 27, at the Russellville City Schools auditorium. Directed by Patrice Burcham Smith, with Aaron Freeman as the music director, the production was a 60-minute musical adaptation of the 2016 animated Disney film of the adventures of Moana and her village of Motunui.
Two of the performances were school shows, and the remaining four were public performances.
Theatre-goers followed Moana as she sailed the Pacific seeking to save her village and discover the truth about her heritage. Featured songs included “How Far I’ll Go,” “Shiny” and “You’re Welcome.”
The production also showcased a variety of other musical numbers, as well as the talents and skills of numerous actors and the members of the technical crew and production team.
Freeman expressed his admiration and appreciation for the enthusiastic participation of all involved. He said he is honored to be around “such supportive and motivating people.”
“Being able to work with these wonderful students has been an indescribable experience,” he said. “Looking at how we were able to sing several songs in another language gave me an increased appreciation for RHS Musical Theatre.”
He commended the students for their optimism for singing the songs in the show. “I remember all the nights I stayed up during the midnight hour working to learn the songs so I could teach them to the students.”
For junior Tara Cummings, one of the students who portrayed Gramma Tala, being a part of “Moana Jr.” is something she will not soon forget.
“It’s been an amazing experience. We have put so much hard work into our performances, and it’s been a lot of fun working together and learning how to sing in a different language,” Cummings said.
Smith explained the year has been one of change and growth, with the cast and crew showing how resilient they are through their performances in the show.
“The students truly love and appreciate each other,” Smith said. “It takes a family effort to make a show like this one happen, and they pulled together to bring this story to life.”
Grace McDermitt, one of the students who played Pua, said she has never been happier than when performing with the RHS musical theatre program. “These are my people, and as a senior, it’s incredibly hard to leave,” said McDermitt, “but also reassuring to know our underclassmen have so much talent and love for this program.”
Senior Tori Tiffin, one of the Chief Ancestors, said her six years in the musical theatre program have fueled her confidence and afforded her the opportunity to make wonderful friendships to last a lifetime – the latter being what she is most grateful for.
“From my first musical to my last,” Tiffin said, “getting up on that stage and performing is a joy like no other.”
Senior Maddy Green echoed the sentiments of her castmates. “As I’m preparing to graduate, I’ve been looking back at my time in school and figuring out how each experience has shaped me,” she said. “In theatre, I have found friends and a family, as well as my confidence and voice. I have learned that I can be anything.”
Smith explained that although not all of the students will continue acting, singing and dancing after high school, things they have learned in the musical theatre program will stay with them throughout their lives.
“I know they will continue to persevere in the face of adversity, find creative solutions to problems, have confidence in a crowd and encourage others to be their best,” Smith said. “They are the best and brightest, and I, along with their parents and families, am incredibly proud of them.”
Sophomore Kinsley Palmer, one of the students to play Sina, said the musical theatre program will forever hold a special place in her heart. “I am so thankful for the many friendships it has brought me and will continue to bring. We are family, and the memories we are making together will last for a lifetime.”
Senior Callie Mayberry expressed her gratitude for the teachers involved.
“Mrs. Smith and Mr. Freeman truly care about each and every one of their students, and, without them, this play would have never been of the caliber it was.”
Senior Caroline Sparks agreed none of it would be possible without their support.
“This program, along with every musical I have been in, has brought me great joy. I am so proud to be part of the musical theatre program along with all these amazing people.”