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Talk show comes to life at Houlton Middle-High School

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton’s Community Arts Center was transformed into a children’s talk show Wednesday and Thursday as middle schoolers brought to life the production of “Dear Edwina, Jr.”

Directed by Jason Anderson, the play was a heartwarming musical about the joys and struggles of growing up as a teenager, through the eyes of the lead character of Edwina Spoonapple, featured in a dual role portrayed by eighth-grader Lydia Byron (Wednesday’s show) and seventh-grader Kaitlyn Kenney (Thursday’s show).

Based on the book by Marcy Heisler, the play featured a “show-within-a-show” format as the star, Edwina, hosts her own talk show, giving advice to family and friends through song. The show was a “junior” version of a Broadway production, which focuses on producing show materials for students in grades 6-9, Anderson said. As such, the goal of the Broadway junior program is to expose young performers to the magic of musical theater.

“This rag-tag group of kids have been working really hard since January on this show,” Anderson said. “In my nine years being here, this is the most prepared, most well-rehearsed and  most entertaining show I have ever done.”

The plot follows 13-year-old Edwina, who is desperate to be part of the “Kalamazoo Advice-a-palooza Festival.” Her siblings have a wealth of talent, but she fears she does not. But when a talent scout from the convention visits her hometown of Paw-Paw, Michigan, Edwina uses the opportunity to perform her show, with the hopes of landing a spot in the festival.

Anderson said that the songs in the production had a bit of a “Schoolhouse Rock” feel to them in that each reveals a lesson for the cast.

Others in the production were Jack Hodgdkins, Hillary Peabody, Nicholas Hardy, Grace Kafferlin, Rider Austin, Kristian Kellerhals, Natalie DeLucca, Alex Craig, Ariana Ardell, Jordan Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth Howe, Hailey Suitter, Emma Merrill, Amelia Callnan, Lindsey Bartman, McKenna Phillips, Hannah Duchesneau, Ella McCarthy, Lucy Hebert, Gabby Duchesneau, Helen Hebert and Mallory Woods.

“Overall, I am so impressed with the dedication of these students,” Anderson said. “Their attention to detail was impressive, and I am very excited to see a group of students bonding together through the production process.  Building teams is one of our favorite things to do through our activities, and I know I speak for my colleagues when I say that our students are better performers when they support each other. It’s their ability to function as a team with high expectations for themselves that makes these shows successful.”

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