Teen Report: LaGrange students prep for musical 15 months in the making

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Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 7:58 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Fifteen months ago students in the LaGrange Performing Arts Program were set to take the stage for sold-out performances of the musical “Frozen Jr.” But a combination of COVID and multiple natural disasters closed the curtains leaving some to wonder if the show would ever go on.

And yet, despite everything, months of perseverance, hard work, and dedication seem to finally be paying off while also giving the performances a deeper meaning for those involved.

Now, after nearly two years of preparation, it’s finally crunch time for the performers of “Frozen Jr.”

“Definitely with everything that came with Covid and the hurricanes and the ice storm, it’s definitely been a journey. But I’m so happy that we are here and we’re finally pushing forward,” says Leslie Israel.

Leslie is set to play the part of Elsa, a role she didn’t expect to come to connect to.

“With Elsa, it taught me to let it go, let it go. Like, it came into realization. You need to let the worries go, the past is in the past, we’re moving forward.”

Leslie, like every student in the production, has been affected in some way by the devastation of the last year. Family losses to COVID, school shutdowns, evacuations that uprooted them from the area, and even returning to hurricane-damaged homes are common stories among them.

“A good portion of our house was taken out by a tree that got knocked over during the hurricane and we were in Houston, Texas, for maybe like half of a year,” said Jaylin Williams.

But despite those challenges, students like Jaylin clung to the LaGrange Performing Arts Program. For him, the program is a path to college and a dream career.

“I’ll be going to basic training for the Navy Reserves,” says Jaylin. “And then after I get back in December, I’ll be going to California to go to a college for performing arts.”

For anyone to truly appreciate the enormous effort it’s taken to make this show happen, you need to begin in March of 2020.

There, in the LaGrange Auditorium, Shelly Buller found the storm-damaged decorations that are still hanging there today.

“I’ll never forget when I opened the door and just seeing all the devastation,” recalled Shelly. “Seeing all of everything we worked so hard for destroyed…it was really breathtaking.”

As the director for the program, Shelly Buller’s commitment to making sure the show goes on is just as strong as her students.

“Whenever we went back into the classroom and were face to face, it was fall of last year, so at that point, we realized we need to pick back up. We ended up having two full calendar years of teaching this material, I’m sure that they truly do want to let it go.”

And while it has been a long road, the students say it’s only made the final journey to the sage all the more meaningful.

“It’s been hard to try to stay hopeful during these times whenever more roadblocks and challenges continue to get in our way, said Haylee Clophus. “But now that I know that it’s so close I’m really excited and really ready to give it my all.”

And while LaGrange Auditorium was damaged, Trinity Baptist Church stepped in to help make the production possible.

“If there is a learning lesson that the cast and the students have learned from this, it is that the community will rally with you when it’s time,” says Shelly.

The performances will be on the following days:

  • Friday, June 25, 2021, with shows at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 26, 2021, with shows at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets to the show are $10 and can be purchased at the door if still available. To get tickets in advance you can purchase them at two different locations:

June 17 and 18

Eastwood Pentecostal Church Gym from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

June 21 through 24

Trinity Baptist Church’s north venue from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Performances for Frozen Jr. will be on the following days:

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