“In ancient China, we believe that we all have a role to play,” says one of the ancestors in Disney’s Mulan Jr., performed by Buchser Middle School students from Oct. 21 to 23. In the musical, Mulan, a girl from ancient China, chooses several roles to ultimately become her own person: pretending to be a man to save her aging father from joining the army and befriending Mushu the dragon. By defying convention to find her values and strength, Mulan also attracts the attention of Captain Shang.
“We have plays such as Mulan so we can offer enrichment opportunities for all kinds of kids,” says Monica Stoffal, principal of Buchser Middle School. “We have enrichment opportunities for kids who like science, kids who like sports and this is for kids who like the arts and enjoy performing. This is also an opportunity for kids who are techies and enjoy working behind the scenes in stage crew. So this production targets a variety of students.”
“We like to pick stories that have a good message and this one in particular has a strong female lead which is important,” says Celia Scheuerman, director of Mulan and owner of Santa Clara Musical Theater. “Maureen Driggs is our vocal director. She’s in charge of all the music and teaching the kids the songs and harmony. I work with the kids on staging and character development.”
At the dress rehearsal on Oct. 19, the Tai Chi cast performed the show in colorful cultural costumes. Stage details include the five ancestors who make frequent commentaries, an avalanche depicted by dancers in white dresses waving white sheets and fight scenes with nomadic Huns.
Audrey Mabanta, 13, showed spunk while playing the strong-willed Mulan. Mulan was Mabanta’s first musical experience and she credited her friends for helping her bring the charecter to life.
“I come from a musical family,” says Mabanta, explaining her ease in singing the songs, including the famous “Reflection.” “I play the guitar, bass, ukulele, clarinet, drums, vibes (similar to xylophones) and piano. I have practiced songs before so memorizing the lyrics for the musical wasn’t so hard. I’ve also watched the movie ‘Mulan’ many times when I was a kid.”
Cole Carter, 12, who performed a number of physical stunts as Captain Shang, has a background in various martial art forms, including boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and weapons. “I feel like I’m similar to Shang because I fight like him and we have the same goals – to give a good name to our families and to excel athletically,” Carter says.
Sierra Blackhurst, 13, as the animated dragon Mushu, brought comic relief to the story. “I didn’t have to prepare that much because I’m similar to Mushu,” Blackhurst says. “Mushu is a sassy dragon and I’m also sassy.”