Children’s Chorale brings Disney’s ‘Mulan’ to life

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By Sara Miller

The Evergreen Children’s Chorale is taking audiences back to the legendary days of ancient China. The ECC’s latest production of “Mulan, Jr.” brings the animated 1998 Disney movie to the stage. “Mulan” is a cultural cornucopia of traditional music, dance and storytelling that is a feast for the eyes and ears.

“Mulan” tells the story of young Mulan, the daughter of Fa Zhou, an ailing man who is ordered to fight in the army when the Huns invade China. Mulan poses as a man and runs off to join the army in her father’s place. Her sidekick is a small dragon named Mushu, who travels with Mulan and provides well-meant but misguided advice about how to act like a man.

The show is based on a Chinese folktale from the sixth century, and the production has been a learning experience for the 52 cast members in more than just a theatrical sense.

“We have dance numbers with Chinese umbrellas and traditional bamboo sticks,” says musical director Elaine Sohrweid. “Our choreographer, Pat Selby, has studied tai chi, so we have many of those movements incorporated into the choreography. We’ve tried to make the show a cultural learning experience for our kids.”

With 15 musical numbers spread over the 75-minute show, “Mulan” is almost operatic in nature. This is the perfect format for the Children’s Chorale, allowing multiple speaking and singing parts, as well as a chorus that remains onstage for the entire show.

“We’re a large chorus, so we look for shows that can incorporate the talents of all of our kids. We have so many kids who are very capable of handling major roles,” says Sohrweid.

Laura Clayton, an eighth-grader at Evergreen Middle School, plays the lead character, Mulan. Her friends, Mushu the invisible dragon and Cri-Kee the cricket, are played by Reid Lange and Tucker Gordon.

Captain Shang, Mulan’s superior in the army, is played by seventh-grader Riley Mack. His three main soldiers, who offer much of the story’s comic relief, are played by Joshua Cronk, Natalya Aramovich and Jack Jacobson. The story is tied together by the ancestors who stand for traditional Chinese virtues such as love, honor and destiny. The ancestors are played by Caroline Vickstrom, Faith Krause, Norika Zehnder, Kahri Nestingen and Greta Magi.

“Mulan” is one of ECC’s most complex productions to date.

“There are two different fight scenes and an avalanche,” says Sohrweid. “The kids have worked really hard getting all of the blocking coordinated so these things not only look realistic but are perfectly timed to music. It’s been amazing to see it all come together.”

“Mulan Jr.”

Presented by the Evergreen Children’s Chorale

Thursday through Saturday, April 30 and May 1 and 2 at 7 p.m.;

Saturday, May 2, at 1 p.m.; and Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m. at Center/Stage Theatre, 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen.

Tickets: adults, $14; children and seniors, $12. For tickets, call 303- 674-9004 or e-mail tickets@evergreenchildrenschorale.com.