New to the Stage

The story of Buddy the elf lifted audiences to their feet in the 3rd annual middle school musical.

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Photo by Meg Rees

Evan Wilson, 8th grade, was the star of the third annual middle school musical, "Elf the Musical, Jr"

On December 13, 14, and 15, 7th and 8th graders from all three middle schools came together to put on Elf the Musical Jr. NASH tech students and teachers helped to make this performance great.

Two years ago, Mr. Tozier, the Chair of the Music Department, decided to give middle schoolers the chance to perform in their own musical, and the tradition of the winter NA middle school musical was born.

Photo by Meg Rees

The musical follows an orphan named Buddy, who accidentally crawls into Santa’s toy bag and is transported to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Photo by Meg Rees

The main difference between the middle school shows and high school shows is the length. Junior shows generally run more quickly — an hour and a half is a long junior show. The high school spring musical, Titanic, will likely run longer than two hours, not including intermission. 

Elf Junior is a newer musical, and the middle school performances are in December, so all the little perfect pieces fell together,” said Tozier. “The middle school shows are more age-appropriate for the singing, the content is geared more for someone that age, so the plot is more understandable, and there is not a live orchestra.”

The process starts in April with a quick meeting for anyone interested in being in the musical. Most of the kids who want to be involved have never been in a show, so the parents have no idea what to expect. 

Photo by Meg Rees

“We are over the top; we’re not a traditional middle school show,” Tozier said. “Because the stage is so big, I got to put a lot more kids up there. I think 64 kids were in Elf Junior, but most middle school shows only have 20 or 30 kids. I would rather do the shows in one of the three middle schools, but the stages won’t accommodate sixty kids and all the set pieces.”

The famous jalopy from last year’s high school musical performance was transformed into Buddy’s glacier for the middle schoolers this year. Stage crew members were inside of the glacier to drive it along the stage.

Photo by Meg Rees

Auditions took place at the end of May and consisted of acting, singing, and dancing. Between the two grades, around 150 kids auditioned, but only sixty are accepted, so a majority get cut. Once the school year ends, the students know if they received a callback.

Callback auditions are held right before the beginning of the school year, so there is a ample time to prepare. At the start of each school year, the cast list is assembled and rehearsals start.

Photo by Meg Rees

“It’s hard to be a part of the cast because we only take sixty-something kids, so a third of the kids make it,” Tozier said. “The first year we tried this, we had no idea about the turnout, so we kept auditions to just seventh and eighth-graders. We’ve never opened it up to sixth graders because so many seventh and eighth graders wanted to join.”

Photo by Meg Rees

The middle school musicals help prepare students for the rigorous high school musicals that they aspire to be involved in.

The middle school and high school directing teams are similar, in that they help each other out throughout the musical seasons. Tozier’s hope is that the musical program as a whole will benefit from the consistency of students who are involved for six straight years. 

“This year was a completely different year for auditioning for the high school musical because half of the students trying out were in the middle school musical, so the level of quality stepped itself up,” Tozier added. “It was really hard making a cut list this year because the kids were dynamite.”

Photo by Meg Rees

Two years from now, everyone in the high school show may have been in the middle school show. At present, the first group of students to be in the middle school musical are sophomores, and in two years they’ll be seniors.

“I’ve heard both this year and last from parents of students entering high school that participating in the middle school musical has given them a clique that they haven’t had to go out and search for in high school,” Tozier said. “I get parents who thank me every year.”

Photo by Meg Rees

Ticket sales grow each year for the middle school show.  The performances packed the NASH auditorium last week.

“I get a nice number of kids who come and see the junior show who are in high school or have already graduated,” Tozier said. “It’s nice seeing those kids with a love of theater coming to see both the high school and middle school shows.”

 

Photo by Meg Rees

But Tozier has even grander ambitions for the future.

“A long time ago I had a master plan to do an alumni musical including anybody that has ever been in a musical at NASH ever,” he said. “It would be so neat to have the middle school show, high school show, and an alum show every year. The cast would have a 10-50 years age difference coming back to do a show. I think that would really put a cap on musicals in this school.”