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All in This Together: Little Tiger Theatre Co. to perform “High School Musical Jr.” this weekend
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This weekend, students in the Little Tiger Theatre Co. will put on a production of “High School Musical Jr.” at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center. - photo by Erica Jones

This Friday through Sunday, some of Dawson County’s most talented young performers will put on a rendition of Disney’s “High School Musical Jr.” at the high school’s performing arts center. 

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This weekend, students in the Little Tiger Theatre Co. will put on a production of “High School Musical Jr.” at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center. - photo by Erica Jones

The group of students performing the show are all part of the Little Tiger Theatre Co. and range in age from fourth to eighth grade, representing several schools in the district including Black’s Mill Elementary School, Riverview Elementary School, Dawson County Middle School and Dawson County Junior High School. 

According to Jordan LeFevre, co-director of the Little Tiger Theatre Co. and counselor at Dawson County Middle School, the students in the show have been working and practicing for months in preparation for opening night. 

“We’ve been working on it since September,” LeFevre said. “We did one show in between, the Christmas show, and then came back to this.” 

As it’s gotten closer to the production opening, the students and director have gotten busier and busier, according to eighth grader Zach Dietzel, who plays the role of Ryan in the show. 

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This weekend, students in the Little Tiger Theatre Co. will put on a production of “High School Musical Jr.” at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center. - photo by Erica Jones

“Every year around this time it gets stressful, but I’ve met a lot of really cool people,” Deitzel said. “It’s fun; I’m excited for the play.”

Deitzel’s counterpart in the show is Trinidy Rarick, who is in sixth grade at Dawson County Middle School and plays the role of Sharpay in the musical. According to Rarick, one of her favorite parts has been getting to know the other actors she’s working alongside. 

“All the thespians are really nice and really good to work with; I love working with them,” Rarick said. “Working with Zach as Ryan is very fun also, we have built a very good friendship.” 

Many of the students in the show have been in other productions before and have experience acting, dancing and singing. One of these students is Black’s Mill Elementary School fifth grader Austin Martin, who will be playing the role of Chad and said that this will be his seventh or eighth production he’s performed in. 

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This weekend, students in the Little Tiger Theatre Co. will put on a production of “High School Musical Jr.” at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center. - photo by Erica Jones

“I’ve been in every play since the beginning of when they started performances and it’s crazy seeing how far this production has come,” Martin said. “I’m really excited.” 

For the students that have been in several productions, LeFevre said that it's rewarding to see how far they’ve come. 

“The more shows they’re in the better they get, so it really shows when they get to middle and junior high and they’ve done a bunch of shows with us,” LeFevre said. 

This weekend’s shows will be put on by the same group of students, with two different lead casts that switch off from show to show. According to Becca Johnsen, co-director of the Little Tiger Theatre Co. and third grade teacher at Black’s Mill Elementary School, the students playing the lead roles in one cast play smaller roles in the other cast, so all the students are on stage in each show. 

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This weekend, students in the Little Tiger Theatre Co. will put on a production of “High School Musical Jr.” at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center. - photo by Erica Jones

“If a kid is a lead in one cast they’re in the chorus in the other and vice versa, so even when they’re not in their larger role they’re still on the stage and supporting the others,” Johnsen said. 

“High School Musical Jr.” follows the story of high school students Troy and Gabriella, a basketball team captain and a brainiac who decide to audition for the high school musical. Patterned after the Disney Channel original movie, the storyline explores what happens when students break outside of their box and explore hobbies other than what they’re already known for. 

Charlie McGriff, who is in fourth grade at Black’s Mill Elementary School and plays a member of the “jock ensemble” in the show, said that she’s excited to be a part of such a big show that she and the other cast members have put so much work into. 

“I’m very excited,” McGriff said. “This is one of our really big shows and it looks great and everything has really come together really well.” 

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This weekend, students in the Little Tiger Theatre Co. will put on a production of “High School Musical Jr.” at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center. - photo by Erica Jones

Riverview Elementary School fourth grader Blakeleigh Griffith, who plays a thespian in the musical, echoed her co-actors’ excitement, saying that she’s both excited and a little nervous too. 

“I’m kind of nervous, but not really,” Griffith said. “This is my third play that I’m in.” 

Having such a range of ages from four different schools all acting together in one play is very beneficial to the young actors because it allows them to interact and form friendships with students they wouldn’t usually spend time around otherwise, Johnsen said. 

“When our fifth graders go into the middle school, they already know some kids going into it and that helps that transition,” Johnsen said. 

LeFevre added that giving the students the opportunity to participate in theater shows at such a young age is also beneficial to them being able to grow as actors as they advance to high school. 

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This weekend, students in the Little Tiger Theatre Co. will put on a production of “High School Musical Jr.” at the Dawson County High School Performing Arts Center. - photo by Erica Jones

“Our goal is to really increase arts awareness in Dawson County Schools, give kids an opportunity to do theater before high school and really just to improve all of our programs from band to chorus,” LeFevre said. “A lot of these kids do other activities like that because they’ve done this with us which is awesome.” 

“High School Musical Jr.” will play this weekend, March 25 through 27, with shows on Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at the door for $7 cash each. 

“They’re a lot of fun to watch,” Johnsen said. “I’m excited; I think it’s gonna be great… I think it’ll be our best show yet.”