May 24th, 2024

Moana a voyage to the return of theatre at Wilson Middle School


By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on December 8, 2021.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard The cast of Moana Jr. at Wilson Middle School runs through a rehearsal Monday morning. The cast and crew of over 55 students is set to put on the 60-minute musical adventure based on the Disney film Dec. 13-15 at 7 pm. at the school.

Theatre is taking centre stage at the Wilson Middle School once again as students will host Disney’s Moana Jr. musical, running Dec. 13-15.
This time, there will be no pandemic in the script after COVID-19 shut down the school’s last production, Jungle Book, a mere two weeks before it was to take the stage almost two years ago.
On Monday, the cast and crew ran through a few tunes and scenes with opening night less than a week away.
“Here at Wilson Middle School, we usually do our plays in April,” said Caitlin Mitchell, director of Wilson Middle School play for Moana Jr. “It’s a long-standing tradition that I was actually a part of as a student called the Collage of the Arts. Two weeks before we were supposed to go to show the pandemic hit and lots of our aids in Grade 6 who were in our show never experienced theatre before and definitely our Grade 7s and 6s this year haven’t experienced theatre. So this is like the light in the darkness for us, being able to bring theatre back and to have the curtains go up again. It’s a big deal. I guess we’re paving the way for schools to start theatre and I think that was from a place of worrying about shutdowns and let’s give these kids an opportunity to do theatre.”
And so, the musical Moana Jr. was picked.
“We knew we had some strong kids,” said Mitchell. “So we trusted their talent, picked a musical and put it up in three months.”
Moana Jr. is a heartwarming stage adaptation of the coming-of-age tale of Moana as she sets sail across the Pacific to save her village and discover the truth about her heritage. 
She and the demigod Maui embark on an epic journey of self-discovery and camaraderie as she learns to harness the power that lies within.
“Moana Jr. is a story about a girl who is told she is just supposed to stay on the island and that’s her role in life,” said Mitchell. “But she loves the sea and wants to be part of that adventure. She finds out her people were voyagers, so she goes on this adventure to Maui who has stolen the heart of Te Fiti. The two go on this fun adventure. It’s going to be very bright and shiny and this adventure is to try and restore the heart of Te Fiti to that goddess.”
Just over 50 students are involved in the cast and crew, said Mitchell, adding lots of the cast are playing multiple roles.
“So they have had to learn a ton of choreography and a ton of music and ton of lines in this show playing different parts.”
Porter Forsyth, 14 and in Grade 8, plays the role of Chief Tui Moana’s dad.
“Doing a musical in three months is definitely a lot of practice,” he said. “So at the school every day after school just working on songs, choreography and lines. But it’s been tonnes of fun and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Liam Onofrychuk, in Grade 8 and 13-years-old, is one of the chief ancestors, a narrator telling the story of Moana.
The pandemic delayed his theatre debut, but now Onofrychuk is looking forward to getting the production going.
“We’ve heard a lot of the time that it’s the first time that you do it is when you get hooked. Hopefully that happens to all of us and we get hooked and keep on doing what we do.
“We have practice everyday after school and now just after lunch we have practice as well. We’ve been doing props and working really hard to get this all done.”
Mitchell noted the excitement among the students of seeing a show come together, especially for those students who haven’t experienced theatre.
“So as they start to see props coming in and start to see costume pieces and set pieces it just builds another level of energy and excitement for them,” she said. “I think the kids are having fun. I’m having fun. I’m running on very little sleep, but I would do anything for these kids to experience theatre and the way it’s changed my life as well.”
Mitchell said the extra curricular school activities such as theatre is important for the students.
“It has just been so weird for them and they crave to be doing things, the extra, fun stuff for them.”
And in a little less than a week, the curtain will come down.
“We’re both very excited and can’t wait to see people in the audience,” said Onofrychuk. “Hopefully they enjoy it, we’ve worked our butts off for this. We did it in Grade 6 and worked super hard and then two weeks out COVID happened and crushed all of us. Now it’s going to happen.”
Tickets are $12 and can be purchased on the Wilson Middle School website at https://wms.lethsd.ab.ca/.
Proof of vaccination is required to attend the play.

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