Jones College’s Theater Department presents, “High School Musical” 

ELLISVILLE – Live, theatrical performances of the popular, Disney movie, “High School Musical,” presented by Jones College’s theater department, are expected to attract large crowds as Covid-19 regulations are easing. Musical performances will be on Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, at 7 p.m. and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, in the M.P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12 years of age. Jones College faculty, staff and students are admitted free of charge with their Jones College ID. Tickets will be available for purchase online. Check the Jones College Arts, Music, and Performance Facebook page for details. Additionally, information regarding current Covid-19 Health Department and CDC guidelines and mask requirements can be found on Jones College and the JC Arts, Music, and Performance department’s social media in April.

Following a smaller cast show, “Godspell” in 2021, and the cancelation of 2020’s musical, “Momma Mia,” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, JC musical theater director/producer, Dr. Jennifer Bruton said she wanted to bring as many students as possible on board for a popular show that would be enjoyed by both the performers and audience.

“This generation of students grew up with the ‘High School Musical’ franchise which includes three blockbuster movies and several spin off series,” said Bruton.  “The original, ‘High School Musical’ movie, which the musical is based upon, was in theaters in 2006, and vaulted Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Tisdale to stardom.”

Portraying some of the well-known characters in Disney’s movie, “High School Musical” for Jones College’s musical theater production of the movie, are pictured in the top, back row, left to right, Conner Smith (Troy Bolton) and Natalie Dewitt (Gabriella Montez). Pictured in the middle row, left to right are Nolan Lee (Coach Bolton, guest performer) and Bralynn Newell (Mrs. Darbus) and pictured in the front row are Donovan Williams (Jack Scott) and Reagan Gass (Kelsi Nielson).

One of the lead characters, Troy is played by Conner Smith of Ellisville. He is portrayed as one of East High’s most popular students and a star basketball player. The new girl in town, Gabriella is played by Natalie DeWitt of Laurel. This shy, smart girl is also a great singer and upstages Sharpay, played by Anna Leigh Ragsdale of Mize. Everyone soon learns Troy has a hidden talent that also threatens Sharpay and her brother Ryan’s (played by Wesley Nelson Carmical of Ellisville) popularity and starring roles in the school’s musical. Troy isn’t exactly ready to shine on the stage but he likes performing with Gabriella as their relationship blossoms.

Musical hits from the original soundtrack include, “Breaking Free,” which landed as #4 on the pop charts. Other songs like, “Wildcat Cheer,” “We’re All in This Together” and “Get’cha Head in the Game,” will also likely have the audience singing along with the cast.

“I knew we were going to have a great turn out for auditions when we started playing, ‘We’re All in This Together’ and the students broke out into the dance moves from the movie!” said Bruton.

The Jones Colleges musical theater production of “High School Musical” features 30 students and a live band. Additionally, Musical Theater incorporates the talents of various Jones College programs, including the commercial and residential maintenance program, and the band and cheerleaders to help make this production come to life.

Familiar to the JC theater stage, is sophomore mechanical engineering major, Conner Smith. As Troy, played by Zac Efron in the Disney movie, the veteran singer and theatrical performer is familiar with playing the lead role in theatrical productions. In fact, Smith has a lot of experience being cast in the lead roles as Jack Kelly in “Newsies,” Kerchak in “Tarzan,” and Doodie in “Grease” during his high school acting career at South Jones. Most recently, last spring, Smith played the double role of John the Baptist and Judas in “Godspell” at Jones College. He said he is looking forward to being the star basketball player in this year’s musical.

“I’ve always loved the Disney movies, ‘High School Musical’ so I thought I would enjoy being in this production,” said Smith. “It’s fun playing a character that’s not that different from who I am.”

His female co-star, Gabriella played by Natalie DeWitt of Laurel, is a freshman, pursuing a degree in speech pathology. She is also no stranger to the theater stage.

“I love being able to bring Gabriella to life and play a character that I haven’t performed before. I feel that we can all see a bit of ourselves in Gabriella, however, as an extrovert, getting the opportunity to play a character like her has been different and exciting,” said DeWitt. “I have had a love for performing and have been involved in many plays throughout my life. It is truly so special to work with such a talented cast like this!”

Feeling insecure about the new girl at East High is the fashionable and feisty, Sharpay. She is portrayed by music education vocalist, AnnaLeigh Ragsdale of Mize.

“‘High School Musical’ has been one of my favorite movies since I was little with Sharpay being my favorite fashionable character. Being able to play her character is a dream come true!” said Ragsdale. “Sharpay’s bitter attitude has been a fun way to step out of my comfort zone during rehearsal.”

Coming to Gabriella’s rescue is her best friend in the movie, Taylor McKessie, played by Wayne County’s Mya McLain. The sophomore pre-law major has no problem playing the smart girl with real-life roles as the President of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and being selected for the JC Hall of Fame and Letter “J” academic honors.

“I love Taylor McKessie! She’s too smart for her own good sometimes and she has to show her edginess and strong spirit in subtle ways that don’t put her in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. She’s blunt, hard working and knows what she wants. I get compared to her a lot actually!” said McLain.

As everyone seems to demand Troy and Gabriella’s time, they find little time for each other which works perfectly for Sharpay and Ryan, who devise a plan to disrupt the new couple’s opportunity to shine on the stage.

To learn how the drama at East High unfolds, buy your tickets in advance, online by checking the Jones College Arts, Music and Performance website and social media pages. For more information about the Jones College Arts, Music and Performance department, call 601-477-4203.

Cast, Crew and Ensemble

Sarah Adams, Ellisville – Ensemble

Ni’Riyah Bell, Laurel – Ensemble

Wesley Nelson Carmical, Ellisville – Ryan

Ta’Nyia Cooley, Shubuta – Ensemble

Natalie DeWitt, Laurel – Gabriella

Reagan Gass, Waynesboro – Kelsi

Cameron Glenn, Laurel – Chad

Mackenzie Golemon Moselle – Ensemble

Jordan Grimes, Leakesville – Ensemble

Dasani Hill, State Line – Susan/Ensemble

Christopher Holloway, State Line – Crew

Kamaya Hutton, Laurel – Crew

Kathryn Hyatt, Laurel – Ensemble

Beyonce Kenny, Rolling Fork – Cathy/Ensemble

Mackenzie Lacy, Pass Christian – Martha

Eboni McDonald, Taylorsville – Ensemble

Mya McLain, Waynesboro – Taylor

Mya McLaurin, Bay Springs – Ensemble

Alexis Millwood, Brandon – Ensemble

Briannesha Mingo, Sandy Hook – Costume/Crew

Lee Mixon, Stonewall -James/Ensemble

Brandon Murray, Laurel – Ensemble

Bralynn Newell, Newton – Mrs. Darbus

Abby Nix, Ellisville – Ensemble

Eileen Ortega, Collins – Cyndra/Ensemble

AnnaLeigh Ragsdale, Mize – Sharpay

Phoenix Riley, Petal – Crew

Ethan Robertson, Columbia – Ensemble

Dreamanda Ross, Monticello – Ensemble

John Scott, Hattiesburg – Ensemble

Jaylon Sims, Raleigh – Zeke

Conner Smith, Ellisville – Troy

Matthew Taylor, Richland -Ripper

Payton Voge, Laurel – Stage Manager

Dalton Whitehead, Columbia – Alan/Ensemble

Donovan Williams, Laurel – Jack Scott