SIX Callaghan College students will spend this week workshopping and rehearsing Disney's Moana Jr and Finding Nemo KIDS after being among 100 individuals hand-selected to be part of Music Theatre International's latest pilot program.
Participants were chosen from 20 drama schools across the nation, but the opportunity is especially exciting for the six Callaghan College students who have each earned individual scholarships. Monday was their first day of five, with intensive training in vocals, choreography, and acting, which will culminate in on-stage performances for friends and family on Friday and Saturday.
Co-producer Shane Bransdon was excited to offer the opportunity to local students.
"There's a real mix in levels of experience here - some of these kids have had private lessons - but I'm really impressed with our Callaghan College students, some of who may not have as much training," he said. "They've been really brave and showed a lot of great energy."
Zac Proctor, one of the six Callaghan students selected and a newbie to the theatre, was loving the experience.
"I think I've found my people here," the 14-year-old said. "I feel very at home and I didn't have to act like I was someone else."
Monday was the students' first taste of the program, with scripts handed out. They are the only people in Australia to have access to the pilot. The secondary participants will be undertaking an adaptation of the film Moana, while the primary group are learning a theatre-version of Disneyland's Nemo production.
Marty Johnson, who has travelled from New York City to direct the Moana pilot, says Australia was picked strategically as the workshopping location.
"These pilots are the beginning of what will one day be adaptations performed by youth on Broadway," he said. "They have been created in the US by the Disney team, and then we work with them on the programs by testing the material out with groups of students, to see how it looks when performed on stage. We picked Australia for these productions because Nemo was set here and Moana is based on the cultures of neighbouring islands."
Mr Bransdon and Mr Johnson said of all the locations in Australia, Newcastle was picked thanks to the generosity of the Civic Theatre.
"These students will all be performing on Friday and Saturday as part of our Junior Theatre Celebration, which will see about a thousand people attend, but that wouldn't be possible without the Civic Theatre allowing us to rehearse and perform here. The venues here, the Civic Theatre, the Playhouse, the Town Hall, are all exceptional and they offer the perfect environment, so the students' know their efforts are important," they said.
"We're thrilled to be running the pilot program for our fourth year, and the city has been so welcoming," Mr Johnson said.
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