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Children's voices add shine to 'Cinderella'
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Catch two local productions of this classic tale

Who: Wauka Elementary School Drama
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: North Hall High School, 4885 Mount Vernon Road, Gainesville
How much: $5
More info: 770-983-3221, ext. 208

Who: Chestatee High School Drama Department
When: 7 p.m. today-Saturday
Where: Chestatee High School, 3005 Sardis Road, Gainesville
How much: $7
More info: 770-532-1162

Kate McElliott, the first-year drama teacher at Wauka Mountain Elementary School, saw the opportunity for a challenge — and took it.

The former education director of the Holly Theatre in Dahlonega now has herself set squarely in the middle of a full-scale musical, complete with singing and dancing and 54 third- through fifth-graders all trying to get their lines straight and stand correctly in the spotlights.

Plus, because Wauka Mountain doesn’t have an auditorium, the kids, parents and teachers have to pack up after school each day and drive down the road to North Hall High School, where they will be staging their production of “Cinderella” this weekend. Shows are at 7 p.m. today through Saturday and tickets are $5.
“I was actually at the Holly Theatre last year ... but actually, even with it being a theater, I never worked with more than, 40 kids,” McElliott said. “But we actually had to cut it off with this group. But it was hard to do that; there was a lot of interest.”

Parents stepped in with costumes, props and set building, she said. And working with Michelle Truelove, the school’s music director who flew solo as director for the school’s previous productions, has helped organize the production, too, McElliott said.

In fact, there’s only been one main hiccup along the way, she said. Namely, keeping a few dozen excited, anxious kids focused during rehearsals.

“Having such a big group, I would say, it’s really hard to have that many people’s attention at once,” she said. “So we’ve worked really hard at splitting into groups, and Michelle is wonderful.”

The students, who bounce around the auditorium during rehearsals in velvet gowns and young men’s attire fit for a prince, agree the costumes have them excited.

“For one thing, it’s pretty cool with the costumes and the props and that we get to do this in front of a lot of people,” said third-grader Madison Terzich.

Madilyn Patterson, a fourth-grader, said she gets to wear a modified version of an old bridesmaid’s dress her mother had, and Ava Jakel is wearing a red gown that was her twin sister’s Halloween costume last year.

“I really like the costumes,” added student Julia Truelove. “They’re really old-fashioned looking and look really cool on stage.”

Being in front of a crowd doesn’t have these kids nervous, though. Many of them have lots of practice from church choirs or other school performances.

“I think the singing is really great because I love to sing and I help my mom sing sometimes in church when she’s absent from church,” said John Graham, a fifth-grader. “I fill in for her.”

Jordan Henshaw, also a fifth-grader, said she’s been in a few plays at her church and has gained some experience singing in front of people. She even had some advice for a student who might get opening-night jitters.

“It’s a good thing not to really look at the audience,” she said. “It’s good to pick a spot on the wall.”

Fellow fifth-grader Katie Oliver had a unique view of what attracted her to the play. She said she’s more interested in what’s going on behind the scenes.

“Behind the scenes it’s awesome,” she said. “There are lots of props back there and mostly we’re just kind of looking ahead and playing around — not playing with. There’s just lots of props.”

McElliott added the show translates well for the students, who are familiar with the tale.

“This show is wonderful. It’s a really good show that has really legit music and it tells a wonderful story that they know.”