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Carrolltowne Players hit the stage once more

An ugly duckling, a hungry cat, a loyal mother duck, a couple of flowers, a few trees and some snowflakes are some of the characters of the Carrolltowne Player's spring musical, "Honk, Jr.'" opening on March 2 at Carrolltowne Elementary School.

The Carrolltowne Players, a committee of the school's PTA, is presenting their second production, said Mary Ellen Will, producer of the show and mother of two of the student actors.

Mary Vaccarino, last year's PTA president, had proposed the school produce a play because her daughter loves the theater. Last year's production of "Willie Wonka" was a huge success, prompting the parents and the students to plan another show, Will said. About 60 students participated in last year's show.

The production team for this year's show is comprised of three other parents, Will said, with Vaccarino as director; Sue Moore as assistant director and Lorie Benson as producer and working with costumes. Because all four had children who hoped to be in the production, they recruited a team of teachers who were not associated with the school to hold auditions and cast the show. Will said the principal, Vicki R. Winner, also participated in the casting.

"We wanted objective people who could be fair to cast the show," Will said.

The auditions were held in September and were open to every student at Carrolltowne Elementary, she said. There are about 70 students from kindergarden to fifth grade in "Honk, Jr.," including the ensemble, leads, understudies and tech crew. Understudies were cast for the first time this year.

Each student was asked to sing two or three songs to audition for the ensemble. If a student wanted to be considered for a specific lead, there was an additional song for them to sing. Call backs were held for the leads, with the students reading from the script for the final casting. Everyone who auditioned has a part in the show, Will said.

Will said the March 3, 2 p.m. show will feature all the understudies, so they will get a chance to perform as well.

The children began learning the music in October, practicing one to two times per week after school, she said. They are now holding rehearsals three times per week, learning the lines, blocking and polishing the show.

Will said all of the profits go back to Carrolltowne Elementary. Last year, they raised about $6,000 from the ticket sales which they used to purchase new curtains for the school stage and to produce the new show.

They plan to purchase new sound equipment for the school with the profit from "Honk, Jr," she said.

Will said "Honk, Jr." is the children's adaptation of Stiles and Drewe's musical "Honk!" which won the 2000 Olivier award for best musical. It is based on Hans Christian Andersen's story of the "Ugly Duckling," she said.

The parents are also very involved in the production, from directing, to set design to costumes and music, Will said.

Benson said she purchased the snowflake costumes, but made the rest of the costumes. The parents have been a big help, she said. They hand cut feathers from felt for the ducks and geese costumes. For the duck feet, Benson made foot coverings in the shape of webfeet and attached them to stockings to simulate the duck's legs.

Ryan Zeitler, 10, who plays "Ugly," said his costume is black with feathers over it. It is supposed to look ugly until he turns into the swan, shedding his black feathers for a white costume with a white top hat, he said.

Annie Morraye, 10, who plays "Grace," said her costume is a maroon dress, hat and duck feet.

"'Grace' is the most distinguished duck in the lake. She is a little bit mean and a little bit not," said Annie of her role.

Riley Matthiesen, 7, who plays a snowflake and a flower in the show, said the best part of the play was that she had the opportunity to be in it.

However, according to Ryan, there is nothing like the moment right before you hit the stage.

"I always like the final product and dress rehearsal week," Ryan said. "At dress rehearsal you get to see how it turns out before it does. It's kind of like seeing the future."

Will said the tickets for the show are $6 each and recommended that they be purchased ahead of time since they have already sold half of the available seats. Tickets will be available at the door, unless they sell out, she said.

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