LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch High School Drama Department Chair Roxane Caravan’s T-shirt says it all.
In the middle, the shirt features the name of the department’s spring production: “Camp Rock The Musical.”
But that’s not the important part. Above the musical logo are the words “Lakewood Ranch.” And vertically down the left side are the words “Braden River,” intersecting with “Lakewood Ranch” at the “A.”
For the first time in East County history, students from Braden River High will join those at Lakewood Ranch in Lakewood’s spring production.
And no, this is no April Fools’ joke. This is for real.
Caravan made the decision to open auditions to the musical to Braden River students last fall after learning Braden River was not planning a large spring production. She first approached Lakewood Principal Linda Nesselhauf and then Braden River’s administration. Finally, she revealed the decision to her own students at their fall cast party.
“At first, my kids were like, ‘What?!’ Caravan remembers. “It’s a bigger talent pool, and some of the kids felt like their spots could be threatened.”
And although the two schools have forged a healthy rivalry on the athletic fields, Caravan says she never bought into the hype.
“We theater folk — we’re not that way,” she says, laughing. “Whether we’re Lakewood Ranch or Braden River — we’re all the same community.
“We’ve done this in the past (with another school), and those kids stayed friends long after the production,” Caravan says. “I saw that it created long bonds and friendships.”
And for the seven Pirate thespians — Jae Clark, Hannah Eubanks, Kailey Fischer, Nick Kim, Nicole Kruszewski, Bridget Watkins and Alexander Zickafoose — that is just what has happened this time.
“At first, it was a little weird, but we’re all like family now,” Eubanks says.
Zickafoose agrees and says his experience at Lakewood has been one he will never forget.
“It’s the closest thing to professional that I’ve ever done,” he says. “It’s way more intense, and I love it.
“We’re like a new, whole, huge family,” Zickafoose says of the 40-member cast. “I’m definitely ready for the show, but I’m not ready for this to end.”
For Watkins, the experience has been so enjoyable that she plans to transfer to Lakewood next year to work more closely with Caravan and the rest of the drama department.
“I live and breathe the arts,” she says. “I’ve wanted to go to (The) Juilliard (School) ever since I was 6. I love the family feel here, and I’m choosing Lakewood Ranch (for next year).”
Caravan says the Braden River students are integral to “Camp Rock,” a tough production that presents a myriad of challenges.
“It’s a brand-new show — the rights were just released in November; we’re one of the first groups performing the show,” she says. “It’s pretty challenging material.”
Featuring mostly rock and pop tunes, Caravan says her veteran students have had to relearn how to sing so they sound less Broadway and more rock star. Furthermore, the show requires more ensemble work than others as well as solos from many different cast members.
“I think it will be well received by people of all age groups,” Caravan says. “It’s a whole community show — from little kids to grandma. Everyone can find something they enjoy in it.”
Following the Lakewood musical, Braden River’s thespians will refocus on their own upcoming Dinner Theater fundraiser, which will be May 13.
Contact Michael Eng at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHEN: 7 p.m., March 31 through April 2; 2 p.m., April 2
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch High School Auditorium, 5500 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
COST: All tickets $5
INFORMATION: 727-6100, Ext. 2189