Upper School Musicals

Tarzan the Stage Musical at USJ

University School of Jackson’s Upper School students traveled to the jungle and performed “Tarzan the Stage Musical,” which is based on the 1999 Disney film.

Show times were February 28 and March 1 at 7 p.m. and March 2 at 2 p.m. in the Blankenship Theatre at USJ, 232 McClellan Rd.  

The lead roles were performed by seniors Christophe Nabhan as Tarzan and Meredith Maroney as Jane. Music and lyrics were written by Phil Collins. Popular songs in the musical included “Two Worlds” and “You’ll Be In My Heart.”

The book, which was adapted from the story “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was written by David Henry Hwang.

This year offers an exciting lineup of musicals

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was performed in October. In the spring, the Upper School performs Tarzan, The Stage Musical on February 28 and March 1 and 2, and Middle School students present Disney’s My Son Pinocchio, Jr. on May 4.

Dr. Tammy Grant, who directs the musicals, has been doing four Upper and Middle School musicals a year for several years. Tom Grant, Performing Arts Department Chair, directs a live orchestra of USJ students and members of the community for Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan.

Upper School Spanish teacher Jimmy Glosson is Dr. Grant’s assistant director. Scott Conley does the stage sets, and Erica Davidson does choreography. Erica teaches an acting class at USJ.

Tickets, which are $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors, go on sale a week or so before each musical. USJ students are admitted free. The Arts Guild seeks Corporate Partners and Patrons of the Arts to provide funding for the musicals and other fine arts activities.


USJ students perform Beauty and the Beast

University School of Jackson students performed Disney’s Beauty and the Beast October 18, 19 and 20.

The cast was mostly Upper School students, but it included students from Middle School and Lower School. The production also featured a live orchestra with USJ students and members of the community. Upper School music teacher Dr. Tammy Grant was the show’s director. Foreign Language Department Chair Jimmy Glosson was assistant director. Scott Conley was the set designer, and Erica Davidson was choreographer. Music Department Chair Tom Grant directed the orchestra.

A tale as old as time, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of a young woman in a provincial town who meets a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress. The musical features the animated film’s original score, which won an Academy Award in 1992. The production also features familiar songs from the film as well as new ones.

Gamble on Love with Guys and Dolls

Luck may be a Lady but the really lucky ones are those that saw University School of Jackson’s Upper School Spring Musical, Guys and Dolls, March 1-3. Set in the city that never sleeps, New York, the musical tells the tale of Sky Masterson and his gang of gamblers who are betting on not falling in love, and certainly not with the object of one of his biggest wagers to date. Besides a great story, the show offered plenty of dancing, and music including the songs “Luck Be a Lady,” “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” and “A Bushel and a Peck.”

Leading the talented cast were seniors Ryan Sanderson reprising the role of Sky and his love interest, Olivia Baker, in the role of Sarah, while Peyton Vaughn played the role of Nathan with his love interest, Adelaide, being portrayed by sophomore Sierra Glosson. Ryan played Sky in the junior edition of “Guys and Dolls” as a Middle School student and ended his career on the stage at USJ with the same role.

Productions such as Guys and Dolls are made possible through the generous support of the Fine Arts Guild Corporate Sponsors and Patrons, including Platinum Partners, Print Co Business Forms and Ad Specialty, West Tennessee ENT Clinic: Dr. and Mrs. Karl Studtmann; Krasner Pawn & Jewelry; First South Bank & First South Bank Insurance; Plastic Surgery Center of Jackson: Dr. Marshall Yellen; The Evans Clinic (Huntingdon): Drs. Paul & Pam Evans, Drs. John & Nancy Caterina and Dr. Jerry Atkins; Dermatology Clinic of Jackson: Patrick and Jan Teer; and BancorpSouth.

USJ Comes Alive with The Sound of Music

University School of Jackson will be alive with the sound of music November 2 and 3 when the school presents the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein production, The Sound of Music. The production is truly a family affair as the cast includes students from the 1st through the 12th grades and Middle and Upper School faculty members.

The musical, which is based on the true story of the Von Trapp family singers who fled their native Austria to escape the Nazis, includes many unforgettable songs, including “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Edelweiss.” The cast is led by Senior Chris Weiner as the Captain, Junior Meredith Maroney as Maria, and Upper School Choral Director, Dian Eddleman, as the Mother Abbess.

You can catch The Sound of Music at 7 p.m. Friday, November 2, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, November 3, in USJ’s Blankenship Theater, 232 McClellan Rd. Dr. Tammy Grant is the director. The musical will be accompanied by a live orchestra made up primarily of USJ students and under the direction of Tom Grant. Choreography is by Erica Davidson, and set design and construction is under the supervision of Scott Conley.

Tickets, which go on sale Monday, October 29, are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. Tickets will be available for purchase at the front desk of the Upper School each day during regular school hours and at the door before each performance.

The Sound of Music is presented through special arrangements with R & H Theatricals: 601 West 26th Street, Suite 312, New York, NY 10001.

Productions, such as The Sound of Music, are made possible through the generous support of the Fine Arts Guild Corporate Sponsors and Patrons, including Platinum Partners, West Tennessee ENT Clinic: Dr. and Mrs. Karl Studtmann; Krasner Pawn & Jewelry; Plastic Surgery Center of Jackson: Dr. Marshall Yellen; The Evans Clinic (Huntingdon): Drs. Paul & Pam Evans, Drs. John & Nancy Caterina and Dr. Jerry Atkins; BancorpSouth; and Cancer Care Center, Jackson.

Thumbs Up for Fonzie and Gang … Happy Days, A New Musical

The University School of Jackson’s Upper School Spring Musical had the audience be-bopping, car hopping and twisting again with its presentation of Happy Days March 2-4. Set in 1959, the show is a new musical based on the famous television show of the same name and written by Garry Marshall.

Happy Days was directed by Dr. Tammy Grant and accompanied by a live orchestra made up primarily of USJ students and under the direction of Tom Grant. Choreography was by Erica Davidson, and Chris Bennett supervised set design and construction and light design..

Productions such as Happy Days are made possible through the generous support of the Fine Arts Guild Corporate Sponsors and Patrons, including Platinum Partners, West Tennessee ENT Clinic: Dr. and Mrs. Karl Studtmann; Krasner Pawn & Jewelry; Plastic Surgery Center of Jackson: Dr. Marshall Yellen; The Evans Clinic (Huntingdon): Drs. Paul & Pam Evans, Drs. John & Nancy Caterina and Dr. Jerry Atkins; BancorpSouth; Wild Smiles Pediatric Dentistry: Dr. Chuck Hughes; Cancer Care Center, Jackson; iDesign; and West Tennessee Construction.

Peter Pan & Cast Soar through the air in USJ production

When University School of Jackson decided to perform Peter Pan, the Musical, it wanted its performance of the timeless tale to include something the school has never done before. The production, November 3, 5, and 6 in the school's Blankenship Theater, had students flying in the air across the stage.

"I was so excited when we chose Peter Pan," said Dr. Tammy Grant, "because it allowed us to have performers fly, something USJ has never done before."

Peter Pan and the Darling children, were rigged to fly across the stage throughout the performance. This aerial feat was made possible with the help of a flying company, which handles the rigging for other performers across the country.

The cast featured students in second through 12th grade, as well as faculty members. The show was accompanied by a live orchestra comprised of USJ students and under the direction of Tom Grant. Set design and construction was under the leadership of Chris Bennett.

Musical director flying high at 50 shows

In early November 2011, Dr. Tammy Grant reached a significant milestone in her USJ career. The production of Peter Pan, the Musical was her 50th musical in 16 years.

Another milestone the musical reached was that for the first time in USJ theatrical history, several of the characters "flew" onstage.

When Grant started at USJ, she walked into a school that had a legacy of wonderful productions each year, one in the Middle School and one in the Upper School.

“Several years after I got to USJ,” she said, “we did Into the Woods, Jr. We had so many kids trying out for parts that I decided to double cast the play. But it still wasn’t enough to spread around all the talent we had, so I added a second musical production for the Middle School that year to provide students more opportunities to participate.”

Two years later she added a fall musical for the Upper School. “We had more students with great talents. I needed more times to showcase all that talent.”

Her first fall production was The Pirates of Penzance in 2004, and it presented Grant with a unique opportunity of using parents and faculty in the cast.

“We had adults in adult roles, which made it all so much more believable,” said Grant. “Our time as student and teacher is short. We are adults together for so much longer. I love it when the kids and adults can work together as equals and learn from each other. Getting to work in that type of environment with faculty, students, and parents helping each other is one of my favorite things to see.”

In 16 years, Grant has met the challenge of staging new productions each year; she has only repeated five musicals under her direction. “With new students, it is always a different experience,” said Grant. “And my skills have improved enough over time that when I repeat a show, it is like an all new production.”

Grant attributes the success of USJ’s musical theater program to the coordinated effort among all the Fine Arts departments: “Libby Lynch helps with artwork, Anna McPeake makes props, Dian Eddleman has been in several musicals, Tom Grant directs the student orchestra (which is unique to high school productions), Chris Bennett designs our sets, and Jimmy Glosson serves as assistant director.”

She hopes to have another 20 years producing musicals at USJ. “We have developed such a talent pool that we can hardly do enough plays to get all the talent showcased,” Grant said.

“Although I realize that many of my actors may not go on to a career in the theater, being on stage is a wonderful life lesson that teaches courage, confidence, and so many skills they will need later in life.”

Picture: From left, Victoria Farnsworth, Bradford Carrington, Camilla Bratton, and Ian Charles starred in High School Musical in March 2007.