Special needs students star, find confidence in 'High School Musical Jr.'
VILLA PARK – Sean Worden was in the audience watching last year when Willowbrook High School presented "The Wizard of Oz."
This year, rather than sitting and watching a musical at his school, Worden took to the stage with friends and peers for a performance of Disney's "High School Musical, Jr."
The adapted version of "High School Musical," tells the story of students who reject the common high school cliques and make friends in different social groups. Last week, students from the special needs programs at Willowbrook and Addison Trail high schools came together to perform the musical at Willowbrook for peers, teachers, families and friends.
Worden, 16, of Villa Park played Troy Bolton, one of the leads in the play. He said he got involved when he was approached by faculty at the school and was asked to participate.
"[I like] the fact that I can express myself," Worden said.
The female lead in the play was filled by 17-year-old Laura Mayen of Villa Park who performed the role of Gabriella Montez. She said she was encouraged to give theater a try at the encouragement of Erik Engel, a social worker at the school who produced the show.
During a morning resource period Aug. 29, the cast from "High School Musical Jr." presented an abridged version of their show to nearly 1,000 students, teachers and staff members at Willowbrook. Worden, Mayen and other cast members admitted to being nervous before first appearing on stage, but later were exhilarated by the experience.
"That was awesome," Mayen said.
Worden said it made him feel more confident.
The students later performed the full play during an evening performance at Willowbrook the same day.
Rehearsals for "High School Musical Jr." began in May, but Engel's idea to produce the play had been planted a year earlier. After seeing the musical at his church, Engel approached the Willowbrook Principal Dan Krause and then contacted the parents of Willowbrook's special needs students to gauge their interest.
If you have any technical difficulties, either with your username and password or with the payment options, please contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org