Mrs.Hirschhorn and Mrs. Hall are with some of their loyal helpers and Drama Club members. "Moana Jr." was the final production for the dedicated advisors. Photo by Destany Cagle
It’s been more than two years since the Lucerne Valley Elementary School thespians took to the stage, and the Drama Club’s first production back made a huge, colorful splash. The musical “Moana Jr.,” based on the 2016 Disney film “Moana,” completed a successful three-night run in Goulding Hall last Saturday. Actors and the audience alike were ready for the production, which showcased promising young actors and singers who sang the songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”), Opetaia Foa’l and Mark Mancina with enthusiasm and verve.
The lead actors displayed some real talent but that was most apparent with the perfect casting pick of Jennifer Fernandez as teenage Moana. She nailed “How Far I’ll Go,” which has some tricky melodic intervals. The result was some of the best singing on the Goulding Hall stage in years.
Gabriel Garcia playing Chief Tui and Aiden Sosa as Maui also soared through roles that often featured quickly sung lyrics. Gretchen Hankins opened the show in style as the little girl Moana.
Other leads performing wonderfully were Abigail Klinger as Chief Ancestor 1, Brodi Lagano as Chief Ancestor 2, Kapri Hernandez as Chief Ancestor 3, Mariah Levinson as Grandma Tala, Abbey Evans as Sina, Arianna Rocha as Pua, and Nathan Robles as Hei Hei. Gabriel Garcia did double duty and also portrayed Tama Toa. William Hankins was Right Claw, Donovan Michaels was Left Claw, Lona Malone portrayed Ta Ka, Derby Demke was Ta Fiti. The Ancestor Ensemble of Payton Hite and Abbey Evans, and the Ocean Ensemble comprised of Faith Fowler, Deyanira Perez, Derby Demke and Lona Malone brought real spirit to the stage.
The LVES production of “Moana Jr.” was special for its quality and size. A number of other young actors brought a special atmosphere to the stage: Villagers were comprised of Lacey Paddack, Faith Fowler, Derby Demke, Jesse Allen, Audrey Haecker, Shelbie Lattin, Madisyn Adamson, and Jolene Whitehall. Fishermen were portrayed by Nayely Alcazar, and William Hankins. The Maui Ensemble was made up of Nathan Robles, Arianna Rocha, Jolene Whitehall, Shelbie Lattin, Nayely Alacazar, and Faith Fowler. Gate Monsters were Jordan Ruiz, Gretchen Hankins, Abbey Evans, and Audrey Haecker. The Shiny Ensemble was made up of Jolene Whitehall, Arianna Rocha, Madisyn Adamson and Shelbie Lattin.
Also showing selfless support for the school’s drama program were Mr. and Mrs. Lambert, who performed the lighting and sound duties, and Ms. Lane and Ms. McLaughlin, who created wonderful costumes for the cast members.
A number of high students volunteered to help make props and backdrops. Lucerne Valley High School volunteers included Madeline Kline, Daphne Demke, Jaydyn Paddack, Cheyenne Flowers, Yomari Calderon, MacKayla Connelly, Phoebe Anders, Tyler Reighard and Zoey Davis. Big Bear High School student volunteers were Aubry Hirschhorn, Gavin and Courtney Woodhall, and Encore High School for the Arts students Kylee Lambert and Evan Lambert also pitched in. Many of the high school volunteers were young actors in previous LVES Drama Club productions.
The production had additional historic significance as “Moana Jr.” was the last production for longtime Drama Club advisors Mrs. Kay Hall and Mrs. Liu Hirschhorn. “Moana Jr.” was dedicated to Kayden Davis and Kristy Klaus, who lost their lives in a tragic traffic accident on April 8th.