HARVARD -- Superstar Productions presents Mulan Jr. at the Hildreth Elementary School this weekend.
Based on the Disney movie, Mulan tells a story of honor, culture and loyalty. The play begins with Mulan, played by Emily Riddle, defying the matchmaker and disguising herself as a boy to join the army in order to spare her father (played by John Babcock). All sorts of fun and excitement ensues while Mulan and the spirited dragon Mushu, played by Sophie Boucher, set off to save the empire. During their adventure, Mulan falls in love, and teaches everyone a lesson in the power of staying true to one's self.
When Mulan Jr. premieres on the HES stage Friday, April 4, at 7 p.m., the production will have been nearly four months in the making. Parents of the 33 cast members from grades 3-6 first met in mid December. At that kick-off meeting, director Kate Hoch reviewed the code of conduct for the actors, volunteer requirements of the parents and introduced the production staff: Edie Hettinger, choreographer, Jessica Parsons, musical director, Marcelle Hazoury, assistant director, and Marie Robb, costumer. Parent involvement is a critical component to the success of the Superstar Productions.
"Our program is based on working as a team and the parents are a big part of that team" says Hoch, who has been directing shows in Harvard for over 13 years.
During the more than 70 hours of rehearsal time, cast members practiced lines and songs, but they also learned the craft of acting, the elements of play production and how to work together as a group where no part is more important than any other.
"I think that learning the main skills on how to act and how to be a good actor has been the most fun for me so far," says Claire Stoddard, a member of the ensemble with a vocal solo. Many cast members cited the improvisational exercises as the best part of rehearsals.
However, it's not all fun and games. The one-hour production is packed with elaborate songs and dances.
"Some of the dance moves in 'Keep Em Guessing' have been hard," admits Rachel Graham, 10, who is one of the Fan Dancers.
Hettinger and her assistant, Kiersten Niland, are masters at guiding the young thespians through the complicated steps and turns with swords and fans as part of the activity!
Parsons has been a constant presence at rehearsals as well often using breaks to work with individuals and groups on singing technique.
Allison Redinger, a member of the ensemble, admits that getting the diction right for her solo has been a challenge.
Stoddard says the hard work has really paid off. "The vocal harmonies are beautiful and the dances are really choreographed well."
All the cast members agree that audiences will really enjoy the show. Cast member Thea Eiland thinks people should come "because it's awesome! And because we've worked really hard on it, and there's a lot of talent to see."
KeeSeok Lee, fellow cast member, agrees. "People should come and see the play... We want to show others what we did."
There will be four performances of Mulan Jr. at HES as follows: Friday, 7 p.m., Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased in advance from Kim Lindo (978-456-8260) or at the door beginning 30 minutes before each show.
The performance is not suitable for most children aged 4 and under.