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The City Journals

Middle schools to present “The Addams Family,” “Peter Pan Jr.” this May

Mar 28, 2019 01:49PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This spring, two middle schools will hold their musicals, finishing up the middle school theater season. Union students will perform “The Addams Family” in early May, followed by Mt. Jordan with its performance of “Peter Pan, Jr.” mid-May.

Union Middle students will perform “The Addams Family” at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 2 through Saturday, May 4, with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, on their school stage, 615 East 800 South. Reserved tickets are $3 and can be purchased online in advance at or at the door, with cash, credit or debit cards.

Mt. Jordan students will perform “Peter Pan, Jr.” at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 14 through Friday, May 17 in their auditorium, 9351 South Mountaineer Lane. The show is free.

Union — “The Addams Family”

As Union students return to school April 8 after spring break, rehearsals will be daily instead of two hours, three days per week, said music teacher David Christensen, who is co-directing “The Addams Family” along with drama teacher Danica Davies, stage crew teacher Chris Olson and dance teacher Roxanne Poulsen.

“We selected ‘The Addams Family’ because it is a musical that is accessible,” Christensen said. “The ensemble, as ancestors, can be their own person from history, make the character their own, and still be in their own group, interacting with the other leads and involved on stage.”

The ensemble will be taken from the 110 students who auditioned in mid-September and are on stage for the musical. Another 40 students, composed of some stage crew class members as well as those interested in helping with the show, will be moving sets, helping with props, costumes, lighting, sound and even assisting parent volunteers with painting and building backdrops.

“We started with rehearsals in early October, with leads reading scripts. What we learned was that a lot of the students had no idea about ‘The Addams Family,’” he said, unless it was with the 1991movie. “So, we watched a lot of the old black-and-white TV shows.”

In addition to learning about the origins of the show, students also learned how to perform on stage and overcome any anxiety about performing in front of people or with a large group of students, Christensen said. He added that they work on diction and singing on pitch with songs that aren’t typically choral or pop. 

Christensen said students also learned how to handle rejection.

“Everyone wants the lead, but they accept and add to participating in the ensemble. We have some of last year’s leads in the ensemble. It’s a good lesson that you don’t always win, but you can still make a large impact,” he said.

Students also have the opportunity to expand their social circles. 

“In middle school, I’ve learned from my 10 years of teaching, students tend to stay with their social group and this is an opportunity to find new groups, to meet and do things with more than five to eight people,” he said.

Union’s performing arts program is rich in history, starting about nine years ago under the direction of Lara Kimball and continuing under Bryan Stephenson. Now, with four directors, it’s expanded and plans are for it to continue offering students experience, even through its upcoming construction, as Union was identified as one of several schools to be rebuilt with the passing of the 2017 bond.

“We use the team approach. It’s the school that puts it on, not just the drama department,” he said, adding that the date of the show was selected to work with nearby Hillcrest High’s theater production schedule. “Hillcrest performing arts is next to legionary with great things being done there, so as a feeder school, we want to keep our auditorium as big as it can, so we can not only use it for our own performances, but also for the district and the community to use.”

Typically, Christensen said they sell about 1,000 tickets per show night in the auditorium that has seating for about 1,300.

Patrons can follow Union’s production on Instagram @ums_musical.

Mt. Jordan — “Peter Pan, Jr.”

With 55 Musical Theater 2 students at Mt. Jordan, “Peter Pan, Jr.” was double-cast after extensive auditions that not only had them try out on stage, but also had them prepare with resumes.

“I want them to be ready, to have a professional product, so when they audition somewhere else, they know what to expect and are prepared,” director Julie Thrasher said. As this is her first year, it also gave her a chance to learn about their talents. “For middle school, I want them to have as much stage time as possible. In other places, they may be one of 500 in a show, but here, they can have the opportunity.”

Thrasher extended the leads of Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Wendy to four actors per part.

“Casting Peter was tough. I used a numerical rubric and still they were within three points of each other,” she said, adding that not all her leads have extensive theatrical experience.

The role of Peter will be played by eighth-graders Jessica Conrad, Brooklyn Davis, Natalie Timothy and Destiny Zank. Captain Hook is played by eighth-graders Olile Akom, Numia Lelu and Elena Nielsen and seventh-grader Kyra Webster. Wendy is portrayed by eighth-graders Destiny Howard and Hailey Richards and seventh-graders Meryn Lee and Sophia Palmer.

With her class being mostly female, Thrasher has the Lost Boys parts played by females as well because she liked the script.

“It’s really close to the original 1955 script and so many junior scripts aren’t similar. I like the number of speaking roles — 25 — so most of the kids have a couple lines to speak. These students are learning how to put every inch of themselves into their characters, they’re learning how to analyze a script, how to sing good, clear diction and vowels and how to take direction from their peers,” she said.

Thrasher is thrilled about the set. While Mt. Jordan doesn’t have a $8,000 fly system, she does give credit to Stage Tech Director Ben Simmons, who is building a see-saw device to have Peter and the Darling children fly. They also are being creative, as the crocodile will move across stage on a skateboard, she said.

The set, which will be moved — as one of their duties — by the 25 theater tech students, will have an extensive Neverland, pirate ship and nursery for the Darling children, the last two of which Thrasher is grateful will be on loan from Sandy City Fine Arts Guild, along with several costumes.

“With a musical of this size, it’s all hands on deck, and I appreciate the help,” she said.

That also includes 80 Art 1 and Art 2 students helping to make and paint papier-mache foliage, a cake and a bomb. Two dance captains, eighth-graders Morgan Cowley and Kennedy Guth, are choreographing two dances, and eighth-grader Vienna Villalobos is coordinating publicity for the show.

Many skills students are learning in alignment with Jordan High’s theater and choir programs, allowing for a seamless transfer in curriculum. Thrasher said Jordan’s theater and choir teachers have held workshops for her students and she wants to take her students to next year’s productions at the high school.

“I’m most excited to see these kids turn into actors. Some of them came in reading scripts, almost monotone. Now, they are taking on characters and everything is starting to click. It’s incredible to watch,” she said.

Earlier this year, Albion students performed “Mary Poppins, Jr.” in late January and Draper Park Middle put on “Bye Bye Birdie” in early March. At press time, Eastmont students were to take the stage with “Annie, Jr.” March 21–23 and Midvale Middle students on March 27–28 with “The Little Prince.”