It’s not often that modern-day middle-schoolers are willing to embrace ‘80s fashion choices like crimped hair and legwarmers, but The Dalles Middle School’s student cast and crew dive straight in with their performance of the ‘80s pop-rock musical comedy “Xanadu, Jr.”
Directed by TDMS music director Leslie Sullivan, the show is May 11 at 7 p.m. and May 12 at 1 and 5 p.m. at The Dalles Middle School, 1100 East 12th Street.
Tickets are available for purchase at the door, $5 for adults and $3 for children. Doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime and the performance runs two hours with one intermission.
“Xanadu Jr.” is a student version of the Tony-winning Broadway musical, “Xanadu,” which is based on the 1980 cult-classic film of the same name. Set in Venice Beach, Calif. in 1980, it tells the comedic story of the Greek muse Clio/Kira, played by eighth grader Alexandria Rector, who decides to help Sonny Malone, a struggling artist played by seventh-grader Hayden Roberts, achieve his dream of opening the first roller disco.
Both Rector and Roberts said they tried out for the lead rolls on a whim and were thrilled to be cast. Rector recalls falling out of her chair when Sullivan told her she had been cast, and Roberts said he was so excited he nearly passed out.
Though she didn’t know much about “Xanadu, Jr.” beforehand, Rector said she has always loved music so she decided to audition. She started singing in fourth grade and fell in love with acting even before that. “When I was younger, I always went around my room doing scenes in my head,” not really realizing that what she was doing was acting, she said. She watched a lot of Disney Channel growing up, she said, and one day it dawned on her that the characters were “people playing other people,” a revelation that launched her into acting.
Though Rector feels prepared for opening night, she is worried something will go wrong once the curtain goes up. “I’m really nervous, so if my voice cracks, because I’m in the awkward teenage stage, I hope I don’t laugh,” she said.
Unlike Rector, this production is Roberts’ first time performing on a stage. “My friends always told me I was really good at imitating others and acting, they suggested I try out for the lead as a joke,” Roberts said.
Of the 80-person student cast, “50 percent, if not more, have never been in a musical theater production before,” said Sullivan.
Roberts said he would definitely do theater again after this show, and most enjoys getting to become his character onstage.
“Performing and theater is a really visible kind of art, there’s nothing like live theater,” said eighth grader Zora Richardson, who plays Melpomene, the muse of tragedy and one of the play’s antagonists. “Playing the villain is insanely fun,” she said.
Fellow eighth grader Dannely Dominguez, who plays Calliope, the muse of poetry and another of the play’s antagonists, have both been in TDMS musical productions before and decided to audition for this year’s musical as soon as they knew it was happening. “It’s so fun, you get to do cool stuff,” Dominguez said.
The cast and crew have been rehearsing the musical for the last six weeks.
“[The students] have worked hard on learning songs, rehearsing choreography, and even learning to roller skate! It is a roller disco after all!” Sullivan said in a written statement.
This isn’t to say that the crew hasn’t been working just as hard, she added. “All of our crew, everything, is student-run, with the exception of me,” she said.
Seventh grader Riley Parker said she enjoys working backstage more than performing. “I think it’s a lot more fun because you can just see everything happening, everything being put together,” she said, “It’s awesome.”
The play is part of the Musical Theater International (MTI) Broadway Junior Collection, a collection of musicals adapted for young performers. “The students from TDMS are working together to tell this vibrant musical story about overcoming obstacles in order to pursue one’s artistic passion. We think you’ll agree that their communication, collaboration and creativity is a quantifying-life lesson,” said Freddie Gershon, CEO of MTI, in a written statement.
For more information about the production and TDMS music program, contact Leslie Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-506-3380 x4123.