Lights! Camera! Action! – Dozens of children perform in “The Tortoise versus the Hare”

The “television crew” — Evy Boska (left) as Stormy Feather, Kya Melton (center) as Bailey Blues and Sanaa Maybery as Cupcake — gives a jazzed-up version of the news and weather including updates on the race. (Photos by Phil Grout)

“Lights! Cellphone Camera! Action!”

As the young performers took center to a colorful stage, parents, relatives and friends filled the room to witness their children present the musical production “The Tortoise versus the Hare.”

“It’s race time, it’s race time, the race time is here. It’s race time, it’s race time, the time to race is here,” sang the “Curly Hare Fan Club” as the group bounced cheerfully across the stage in long-eared bunny costumes to open the show.

The hourlong musical, produced by Missoula Children’s Theatre, was held Saturday afternoon in the Meade Middle School cafeteria.

The free event was open to the community.

“I’m so very proud of this group of children,” Missoula Tour Actor Director Erica Diederich said.

The cast of “The Tortoise versus the Hare” sing during the curtain call following the performance produced by Missoula Children’s Theatre on Saturday afternoon.

Diedrich and co-director Jade Coates auditioned and cast the show on July 17 with about 30 to 40 Fort Meade youths in grades two through 12.

They had just five days to learn their lines and production numbers.

“They worked so hard this week trying to remember their lines,” Diederich said. “I’m so happy they remembered them during the show. They did an amazing job.”

Noticeably throughout the audience, a great amount of cellphones were held high by parents and relatives of the young cast.

Photos and video were captured by the crowd throughout the performance.

During the hourlong show, “Coach” Nathan Crane (left) and Curley Hare — aka Aryanah Hopke (right) — reach an agreement on how to cross the finish line together.

Twelve-year-old Lily Rankin, who was a member of the “Troupe,” gave a sigh of relief after the show.

“I had a great time being a part of the show, but I’m so glad it’s over,” said Rankin, who attends MacArthur Middle School. “I was super nervous and I thought I wasn’t going to remember my lines, but I managed to pull through.”

Rankin wasn’t the only one who was nervous during the show.

“This was my first time performing in a play,” said 7-year-old Tegan Bryan of the “Curly Hare Fan Club,” who is home-schooled. “I had a lot of fun, but I was a little nervous.”

Other cast members also enjoyed being part of the show.

“I had 100 percent fun,” said an enthusiastic Jasmine Jones, 6, who attends the West Meade Early Education Center.

The “Curly Fan Club” member participated in other plays before this.

“I really enjoyed the entire play,” Jasmine said. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”

Kya Melton, a freshman at Annapolis High School, received an acceptance letter from Missoula Children’s Theatre to participate in its upcoming summer theatrical program.

“I’m super anxious and excited about joining Missoula’s summer program,” Kya said with a huge smile on her face.

Kya, who was “Bailey Blues,” in the show, received the news of her acceptance after the play.

“I can’t wait to share this with my dad [who is in the audience],” she said.

Based in Montana, Missoula Children’s Theatre tours the U.S. and 17 countries year-round. Past productions at Fort Meade have included “Peter Pan” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“I had such a great time during the play,” said Danita McCrayer, a student at MacArthur Middle School.

The 12-year-old played the character “Ralphie.”

“I never participated in a play before,” she said. “But just from having such a great time in this play, I’m actually thinking about joining the MacArthur theater club.”

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