Just like it sounds, one specializes in music and the other company focuses on performance -- but Caldwell stresses that some students are in both companies.
In a nutshell, the mostly female cast shines a bright light on the songs that made Motown music famous -- Motown referring to the small, independent, but vastly successful music label formed by
Between 1960 and 1969, 79 Motown records eased into the Top Ten of Billboard's Hot 100 record chart.
"Hitsville" is set at the
With a map of
Former youth vocalist
She now expects her 13 students to write research reports about songs from
Mind you, Caldwell's classroom represents every theatrical cliche.
Her students include, and I'm quoting, "a girly girl," played by
Also, a cheerleader, played by
How the cliches come into play, one is uncertain.
The theatrical cast also includes Fadeyi;
The adult vocalists, heard only during the first weekend, are
Representing the Cactus Kids' 21 vocalists are Maya Alhmoud,
Some may remember Terri Caldwell's theatrical debut, "Shake It Up." She is using the same system in "Hitsville."
Another interactive production, "Hitsville" finds the first two presentations, on Friday and Saturday, shining a spotlight on the older, more experienced vocalists.
They will sing most of the songs and, in the process, mentor the students.
Thus, the final three performances on
And it will be up to the aforementioned students to breathe life into 20 Motown tunes.
The process worked well on "Shake It Up," even if age factors command some imagination when roles are reversed.
The drama arrives when Roberts' principal, fellow instructor and visiting parent all take her to task for varying from the school's traditional curriculum.
Asked if the play has any anti-racist overtones, Caldwell stated that the only disagreement expressed by the protesters is their belief that only classical music should be taught. It is up to
Caldwell is using a large cast, and so has opted to use tracks rather than a live band. The classroom also is divided by a scrim, with the older singers performing behind the classroom.
The play's second act consists almost entirely at a school board meeting, with Fadeyi's
Making the musical more interesting is the teacher's insistence that each student not only learn about a song, but also research the lives of songwriters and performers. The meaning behind some songs can be found within the lives of those who married lyrics and melody.
Still, Caldwell said her main purpose was to give children in the aforementioned companies more experience.
"In terms of our drama students," she said, "anytime we can give them a new production, and challenge them to get from one scene to another, it is a learning experience that helps them improve. I'll admit that I really wanted to showcase the kids in the music program and challenge them. They have a hand in everything, including the history of the music.
"If there is a message at all, it is just that too many believe that commercial music is beneath them."
Terri Caldwell was a young vocalist who recorded some songs that made the charts. She continued singing and teaching music. Laughing, she said that, for her, the most challenging aspect of putting "Hitsville" together "was writing the dialogue."
She added, "The shadowing parts also were challenging, but everything came together in rehearsals. We're real lucky to be blessed with so many hard-working, talented students."
The 13 children in the theatrical cast and 21 young vocalists in "Hitsville" range in age from 6 to 17.
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