‘Mulan Jr.’ is Hester Junior High School annual musical, Feb. 21-22
Alexa Jennings, an 8th grader at Hester Junior High School, practices the finale along with her fellow Mulan cast members Saturday afternoon. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:58AM
FRANKLIN PARK — When Marilee Castaneda became choir director at Hester Junior High School 28 years ago, it wasn’t nearly as hard to keep track of students at rehearsal for the annual musical.
“My first year I started with 30 kids,” Castaneda said. “Over the years it has grown. In class I would say you really have a great voice and should join the choir. They’d say, oh yes, and bring their friends with them.”
And friends, and then more friends. Over the years, it added up.
This year, almost half the students at Hester participate in the annual musical — that’s almost 200 students, including the stage crew.
On Feb. 21 and 22, Hester Junior High presents Mulan Jr. The musical is based on the 1998 Disney film set in ancient China. Chinese men are enlisted to fight the invading Huns. A young girl named Mulan disguises herself as a boy to substitute for her old and ailing father.
“The character of Mulan is a very strong character who breaks tradition and does things girls usually don’t,” Castaneda said. “There are a couple of songs that are only for the boys to sing. I have about 40 boys and they have two strong numbers that are pretty cool.”
Castaneda has been rehearsing with the cast since late November. It hasn’t always been easy.
“The challenge is keeping them all focused and quiet in rehearsal when you have that many students,” Castaneda said. “Sometimes it seems like things aren‘t going to come together but somehow it always does.”
The shows take place at 7 p.m. at Hester Junior High School, 2836 Gustav St, Franklin Park. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors.