This spring, Lake Nona High School (LNHS) is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Mrs. Gail Chase, the LNHS theatre director, has been teaching theater for 21 years. She opened the theater curtain in Lake Nona and has been running a very strong program every year since. Throughout the last 10 years, she has empowered her students to not only succeed in her classroom and on stage but after they graduate as well.
Throughout this decade, Chase’s theater department has raised money for Relay for Life, Zebra Coalition, Florida Hands and Voices, Florida Abolitionists and hurricane relief for both Harvey and Maria. She emphasizes the importance of giving back. Chase said, “Kindness is a taught skill.” Every year, her students perform a one-act play, and all the money raised gets donated to a charity. This year’s charity is the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida (RMHCCF). Mrs. Chase believes, “In general, our society is moving toward a selfish path, and I teach philanthropy to my students because I think that we always need to be seeking ways to help others.”
The Lake Nona Ambassadors of RMHCCF committee decided they wanted to raise money and awareness for the local chapter of RMHCCF with a fun-filled, packed weekend, spreading holiday cheer. When the committee chair approached Chase regarding a collaboration, she did not hesitate to say yes. When Chase mentioned she would be directing Elf the Musical Jr., it was clear that the partnership was meant to be. As Buddy the Elf says, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” Chase has worked to coordinate efforts with chorus and band teachers throughout the Lake Nona schools to have them attend the event and sing and play music in the LNHS courtyard throughout the Santa’s Workshop weekend.
Chase has planned for the entire school year of theater shows to revolve around a theme of celebrating families of all shapes and sizes. Similarly, the mission and core values of the RMHCCF are to have a place that allows families to spend additional time with a sick child, help ease financial burdens, and provide a sense of normalcy while keeping families together during times of medical crisis. The Ronald McDonald House is all about family. It seemed like a natural fit – a collaboration of two entities whose focuses go hand-in-hand.
Elf the Musical Jr. is a version of the Will Ferrell classic with bits of your favorite dialogue combined with original music and a twist on the plot. Chase picked this story because it is about a father and son finding each other and connecting. Her other plays and events this school season include: The Family We Chose: A Cabaret, which was held this past October and included both current and past students coming together to perform; the one-act play, The Yellow Boat, which will be performed on Nov. 8; the 10th annual Thespian Benefit on Jan. 15; and The Sound of Music, which will run April 5-13.
The show Elf the Musical Jr. has a very diverse cast of not only high school students but also middle-schoolers. Eli Esther attends Innovation Middle School and has a leading role as Michael Hobbs. Mr. Justin Chase, the LNHS chorus and AP music theory teacher, is the music director for the show and husband of Mrs. Chase. Scott Schoonover, another theater teacher at LNHS, is the technical director. Both Mr. Chase and Mr. Schoonover share Mrs. Chase’s enthusiasm for giving back and teaching their students the value of helping others. They are all passionate about the arts, and you can sense that as soon as you hear them speak.
The students are working hard to get ready for the show and have already begun rehearsals. Tickets can be purchased online at Teachtix.com. General admission is $12, and preferred seating is $15. Tickets will be sold at the door if any seating remains available, but the shows are expected to sell out quickly. The four shows will be Friday, Dec. 7, at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, at 3 and 6:30 p.m., and the final showing on Sunday at 3 p.m. Please help support the LNHS theatre department and all of the students in the show. I have seen a rehearsal, and I am sure you will not be disappointed with our amazing and talented kids.
Elf the Musical Jr. Cast List
Buddy: Thomas Dyer and Tristan Rujano
Jovie: Noemi Gonzalez and Dany Oliveira
Walter Hobbs: Marco Batista Rudolph and Gabriel Mamuyac
Emily Hobbs: Isis Bermudez and Hayley Chafin
Michael Hobbs: Eli Esther
Santa Claus: Chijioke Oparaji and Julio Vazquez
Deb: Dari Perez and Alondra Trinidad-Colon
Mr. Greenway: Conner Logan
Manager: Cassandra Cruz and Pia Hernandez
Fake Santa: Kieron McKitterick
Charlotte Dennon: Zoe Devaliant and Ainsley Siegel
High School Ensemble: Esteban Baez Sola, Amiel Bagay, Destiny Bernard, Emma Budsberg, Melodie Crissan, Ilsealysha Davila Torres, Raynard Dentey, Calistenes Fuguet, Mariana Garcia, Benjamin Gillan, Alexis Gilliam, Madison Gotham, Sabrina Henson-Matheny, Alan Jerez, Yizelle Jimenez, Alyssia Luna, Raegan Overton, Megan Parker, Sabrina Reece, Rebekah Rickman, Sophia Rodriguez, Hannah Yon and Micah Zervos.
Middle School Ensemble: Emily Ali, Paula Chung, Heaven Cintron, Alexandra Drauer, Alexa Fillalan, Emily Hernandez, Katarina Jenarine, Joie Kinard, Giana Mancuso, Naomi March, Jose Mendez, Shaylin Mitchell, Mia Muniz, Amelia Ruby, Nicholas Sacco, Dana Smith and Max Young.
Article and Photo by Ryan Thomas