GOLD BEACH — Ellensburg Theater Company director Jonathan Pratt has been working with children this summer teaching them about stage acting.
The end result was the performance of Disney’s musical “Mulan Jr.”
The script is based on the play, “Mulan,” and has been rewritten to be performed by children and teenagers, thus the “junior” in the title.
The story is told mainly in song with most of the lines going to the lead actors, but everyone has at least one line. The set is a simple black backdrop with a raised platform behind a faux rock for standout character scenes.
Bethy Myers plays Mulan, an independent woman in a male-dominated world. The story begins when it is her big day to meet the village matchmaker (Courtney Richmond); however, nervous Mulan wrecks her betrothal ceremony and dishonors her family.
Shortly afterward, her father, Fa Zhou (Soren Gustafson) is called to the army by Chi Fu (Quince Hall), the emperor’s councilor, because he has no son to join for him. But Mulan steals Fa Zhou’s helmet and sword, dresses as a boy, and runs away from home to go in his place. The family’s spiritual ancestors have no choice but to send the misfit dragon Mushu (Bethany Michels) to stop Mulan, who will be killed if she is discovered.
As the enemy leader, Shan-Yu (Avi Gaston), and the Huns prepare to attack China, Mushu helps Mulan act like a soldier. Mulan introduces herself as “Ping” and joins the men to endure Capt. Shang’s (Jeffrey Popoff) grueling training. The Chinese soldiers march to defend a mountain village from Shan-Yu, but arrive too late — the Huns attack. However, Mulan creates noise to trigger an avalanche, which covers the Huns and saves the soldiers. Shang honors Ping, only to discover Mulan beneath the helmet and prepares for her execution. However, he spares Mulan’s life for saving his, but leaves her behind to fend for herself.
Suddenly, Shan-Yu and the Huns emerge from the avalanche and race toward the Imperial City. Mulan runs ahead to warn Shang, but he ignores her. Meanwhile, Shan-Yu surprises and kidnaps the emperor (also played by Gustafson). Mulan convinces Shang and his men to dress as women to distract the enemy and save the emperor. Mulan defeats Shan-Yu; the Huns retreat and the emperor honors Mulan’s bravery.
Finally a reality
Pratt wrote in his director’s notes that he talked to theater board member Sue Baczik about directing a summer play. After giving it more thought, it was decided to hold a children’s theater camp. Pratt remembered the play and thought it would be a good one to do.
“Now, it’s finally a reality, and the kids are what made this possible,” Pratt wrote. And a good job they did. All the lead characters did a marvelous job. Some of the younger actors had trouble with lines, but the more experienced thespians gave them help to jog their memory.
Two more chances remain to see “Mulan Jr.” — at 7 p.m. today (July 24) and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 29, at the Rogue Playhouse, 94196 Moore St., Gold Beach. Tickets are $10 for general, $6 for children 6-12 and free for children 5 and younger. For information, call 541-247-4ETC (4382).