Upper School Musicals

Singin' in the Rain

Singin in the rain

March 2 and 3 at 7 p.m.
March 4 at 2 p.m.

Adults - $10
Seniors & non-USJ students - $7
Faculty and USJ students - FREE

One of the classic musicals will be brought to life on the Blankenship Theater stage come early March. Singin' in the Rain is known for it's catchy tunes like "Good Morning" and "Singin' in the Rain." Keaton Miller, sophomore, will be playing the role of Don Lockwood, and Meg Howell, senior, will be playing Kathy Selden. Get ready for some tap dancing, amazing singing, and, yes, it just might rain on stage.

Show dates will be Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. There will also be a Sunday matinee on March 3 at 2 p.m., doors opening at 1:30 p.m. Cost of admission is $10 per person and $7 for seniors and non-USJ students. USJ faculty and students get in free.


Dora Bailey: Greta Trigony
Zelda Zanders: Madison Maroney
Olga Mara: Bailee Norris
Mary Margaret: Abbey Wheeler
R. F. Simpson: Harrison Hamm
Roscoe Dexter: Jared Koerner
Cosmo Brown: Jake Booher
Don Lockwood: Keaton Miller
Lina Lamont: Annabelle Reese
Young Don: Alex Nolan
Young Cosmo: Jesse Conquest
Filmed early in black and white….
Gaspard de la Nuit: Ian Rial
Villains and Enemies: Caleb Carey, JD Jaggers, Ryan Miller, Connor Rogers, Seth Spry, Esosa Odeh, Ikenna Oleru, Blaine Verdung
Lady-in-Waiting: Abby Vaughn
Rod: Ethan Schlegel
Kathy Selden: Meg Howell
Beauties: Jenna Box, Channing Sellers, Savannah Tabor
Dancing Girls (Tap): Chelsea Bada, Leigh Baldwin, Olivia Cherry, Gabrielle Evans, Meg Miller, Abby Vaughn, Ellie Whisenant
Policemen: Ikenna Oleru, Blaine Verdung
Butler: Connor Rogers
1st Assistant Director: Kade McCarter
2nd Assistant Director: Zack Mahalati
3rd Assistant Director: Jesse Conquest
Wardrobe Mistress: Lili Mahalati
Hairdresser: Sydney Lofton
Production singer: Nick Zerfoss
Major singing role
Sid Phillips: John Giampapa
Miss Dinsmore: Macy Scott
Male Diction Teacher: Nick Zerfoss
Sound Engineer: Ethan Persons
Cowboy: Ryan Miller
J. Cumberland Spendrill III: Caleb Carey
Sugar Daddy: JD Jaggers
Charlie Chaplin: Jared Koerner
Mrs. Simpson: Abby Wheeler
Workmen: Connor Rogers, Chinaza Nwokolo
Man on Screen: Kyle Williams
Filmed in advance
Broadway Melody Production Number: Chelsea Bada, Madelyn Badgett, Leigh Baldwin, Jenna Box, Caleb Carey, Olivia Cherry, Violette Desdeon, Ashley Elam, Tori Ellis, John Giampapa, Ashlynn Isbell, J D Jaggers, Lexie Krenis, Sydney Lofton, Kelsa Lunsford, Madison Maroney, Kade McCarter, Meg Miller, Ryan Miller, Alex NolanChinaza Nwokolo, Ijeoma Oleru, Ikenna Oleru, Ethan Person, Ian Rial, Connor Rogers, Ethan Schlegel, McKenna Smith, Seth Spry, Ellie Whisenant, Carter Willis
You Stepped Out of a Dream
Audience (Lines)
Chorus (Singing/Lines): Leigh Baldwin, Madelyn Badgett, Caleb Carey, Olivia Cherry, Gabrielle Evans, John Giampapa, Sadie Hanna, JD Jaggers, Lili Mahalati, Meg Miller, Ryan Miller, Bailee Norris, Esosa Odeh, Ethan Persons, Ian Rial, Seth Spry, Abby Vaughn, Nick Zerfoss

Disney's High School Musical

March 3 & 4 - 7 p.m.
March 5 - 2 p.m.

Adults - $10
Seniors & non-USJ students - $7
Faculty and USJ students - FREE


Troy: John Giampapa
Sharpay: Madison Maroney
Ryan: Keaton Miller
Chad: Zach West
Kelsi: Macy Scott
Ms. Darbus: Erica Davidson
Zeke: Alexander Peftoulidis
Cyndra: Avery Cupples
Jason: Patrick Aherrera
Susan: Ellie Whisenant
Ripper Evan Heller
Mongo: Aidan Harlan
James: Nick Zerfoss
Jack Scott: Caleb Carey
Cathy: Ali Butler
Alan: Harrison Hamm

Brainiacs: Olivia Cherry, Gabrielle Evans, Megan Everson, Meg Howell, Sydney Kwasigroh, Mmesoma Nwokolo, Kate Petrinjak, Abby Wheeler, Courtney Wilkes

Cheerleaders: Isabella Anawate, Chelsea Bada, Leigh Baldwin, Jenna Box, Maggie Exum, Sadie Hanna, Ainsley Hirstein, Phoebe Larkins, Claire Lewis, Kelsea Lunsford, Nicole New, Maddie Sills, Sophie Stallings, Ella Margaret Terry, Caroline Vaughn, Brylee Whitsitt, Caroline Williams, Lydia Woods

Jocks: Jake Booher, Garrett Evans, JD Jaggers, James Laird, Chet Ngien, Thomas Ngien, Rhett Peel, Connor Rogers, Ethan Schlegel, Miguel Sioson, Seth Spry, Caleb Watlington, Carter Willis

Performance Artists: Libby Basham, Maddie Buie, Jillian Crenshaw

Skater Dudes: Will Everson, Brendan Kayal, Kate McCarter, Chinaza Nwokolo, Solomon Scott

Thespians: Will Everson, Emily Hailey, Jordan Henges, Lili Mahalati, Zack Mahalati, Ethan Schlegel, Madison Stafford, Savannah Street, Natalie Sullivan, Sarah Sullivan, Allie Tenpenny, Holland Van Buren

The Little Mermaid

The University School of Jackson's production of Disney's The Little Mermaid was a huge success. With the first two shows packed and the Sunday matinee sold out, the students gave three outstanding performances. The cast was comprised of 2nd graders to 12th grade, and it truly showcased the talented range of students we have here at USJ. Once again, Dr. Tammy Grant, musical theatre director and 9th grade choir teacher, gave her audiences a family-fun show that had everyone smiling and bragging as they left the Blankenship Theater.

Two of the leading roles were freshmen Lily Richardson, as Ariel, and Keaton Miller, as Prince Eric. Listening to Richardson sing "Part of Your World" was like listening to the original Disney motion picture. It will be exciting to see what her future holds for her. Miller is no stranger to the USJ stage, and he, once again, gave a remarkable performance that left us believing he was truly in love with Ariel. There were other great performances from Alexander Peftoulidis, senior, as King Triton, Kade McCarter, middle school, and Harrison Hamm, junior, as Scuttle. The person who kept us laughing was Jake Booher, freshman, who played Sebastian. As always with any Disney story, you must have a villain and boy did Sydney Kwasigroh bring it. Kwasigroh played Ursula in middle school, and she nailed it once again as a senior. We will definitely miss her talent as she heads to college next year.

Click here to view photos

Dr. Grant is excited to have nominated this production into the Orpheum's High School Musical Theatre Awards, which is modeled after the Tony™ Awards. This event is part of the National High School Musical Theatre Awards program which includes 30 programs from across the United States. Participants will gather at the historic Orpheum Theatre for a night of performance and an awards presentation on Thursday, May 25, 2017, at 7pm. We wish them "Break a leg!"

Cast List

Ariel: Lily Richardson

Pilot: John Giampapa

Sailors: Caleb Carey, Chester Evans, JD Jaggers, Zack Mahalati, Chidera Nwokolo, Jack Ramer, Ethan Schlegel, Solomon Scott, Seth Spry, Caleb Watlington, Chase Wimer

Prince Eric: Keaton Miller

Grimsby: Nick Zerfoss

Flounder: Kade McCarter

Scuttle: Harrison Hamm

Sea Creatures: Lorelai Ballentine, Leigh Baldwin, Becca Basham, Libby Basham, Ava Bellar, Samantha Bosco, Jenna Box, Maddie Buie, Cassidy Bruno, Madison Bruno, Ali Butler, Sarah Grace Callis, Olivia Cherry, Lily Cox, Stella Crenshaw, Avery Cupples, Eady Davenport, Ashlee Dunn, Madeline Eldridge, Gabrielle Evans, Mila Fuller, Maddy Gastador, John Giampapa, Emily Hailey, Kearstin Harris, Evelyn Helms, Sarah Hensley, Anna Kathryn Horn, Bradi Jett, Cade Jett, Lauren Krasner, Lexi Krenis, Savannah Lofton, Kelsa Lusford, Lidiah Mahalati, Zack Mahalati, Noah Martin, Meg Miller, Radha Mitchell, Reyn Montgomery, Mina Nair, Stephanie Nnaji, Chidera Nwokolo, Mmesoma Nwokolo, Kate Petrinjak, Macy Scott, McKenna Smith, Corrine Sullivan, Toni Tremblay, Katie Watlington, Caroline White, Caroline Wilkerson, Gracen Van Winkle, Leven Van Winkle, Mary Helen Woods, Skyla Ziegler

List of Shows:

  • Fall 2014-2015 - Seussical
  • Spring 2015 - Mary Poppins
  • Fall 2015-2016 - Wizard of Oz Spring
  • 2016 - Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella

Disney's The Little Mermaid

The Fine Arts Department presented Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella Enchanted in March 2016.  The cast for this timeless classic was made up of 60 upper school students and six lower school students. An orchestra consisting primarily of the USJ Bruin Band provided the accompaniment. Dr. Tammy Grant was the director, with Mrs. Erica Davidson serving as the choreographer and Mr. Jimmy Glosson working as assistant director.


The Fine Arts Department presented Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella Enchanted in March 2016.  The cast for this timeless classic was made up of 60 upper school students and six lower school students. An orchestra consisting primarily of the USJ Bruin Band provided the accompaniment. Dr. Tammy Grant was the director, with Mrs. Erica Davidson serving as the choreographer and Mr. Jimmy Glosson working as assistant director.

Caroline Miller nominated as Jackson Rotary Club Junior Rotarian

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.

The USJ Arts Guild congratulates our musical theater and choral student, Caroline Miller, for her nomination as a Jackson Rotary Club Junior Rotarian for November. When not on stage or singing, she is chaplain of the USJ Student Government Association, President of the Buddy Club, a Bruin Cheerleader, a peer tutor, and a graduate of the Jackson Chamber's Leadership University. She hopes to attend Samford University, majoring in Speech Pathology.

Photo (L to R): Scott Conger, Rotary President; Caroline Miller; and Stuart Hirstein, USJ Head of School

Wizard of Oz

Click Here to view the Cast List

Meet the Cast


How else can you describe USJ’s production of Mary Poppins?

Students, faculty, and parents worked hard to prepare the Broadway version of Mary Poppins.

For three months, 90 of USJ’s students in grades six through 12 sang, danced, and rehearsed orchestral instruments in preparation for the show. Besides students, USJ had seven faculty members and seven parents participating in this beloved family production.

Show times were February 27, February 28, and March 1.


“One of the great perks about seeing a musical at USJ is a live orchestra,” said Dr. Tammy Grant, Upper School Chorus and AP Music Theory Teacher and Director of Mary Poppins. “This orchestra consisted of some of USJ’s very talented student musicians, two faculty members, and one former student.”

Tom Grant was the orchestra director, and accompanist Lisa Powell led the ensemble. The show was choreographed by Theater Teacher Erica Davidson.

ZFX Flying Company supplied and trained faculty members and parents to use equipment to fly characters across the stage.

“The show had some wonderful effects that left audience members breathless,” Dr. Grant said. “One occurred when a character was suspended upside down from the ceiling of the proscenium wall.”

The musical had many other great moments. “It was a monumental show with superb singing and toe-tapping dancing that made people want to get out of their seats and join the cast on stage,” Grant said.

Daughter, father star in Mary Poppins

Sierra Glosson, a USJ senior, caught the theater bug in second grade when she played a peasant girl in the USJ production of Beauty and the Beast. This spring, Sierra carried the lead role in her 20th show, Mary Poppins, as she acted alongside her father, Jimmy, who starred as Bert.

With two Middle School productions and two Upper School productions every year, USJ has offered Sierra numerous opportunities to do what she loves. “In Middle School, I realized that this is what I really want to do,” Sierra said.

The importance of fine arts is emphasized both at home and at school, she said. Her father and her mom, Julie, took her to the Orpheum in Memphis and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville numerous times. Les Miserables is her favorite musical.

Her parents also supported Sierra in her numerous performances at USJ. Two years ago, Sierra was able to be on stage with both of her parents during the Jackson Theatre Guild production of Hairspray.

“Dr. Tammy Grant (who directs USJ’s musicals) convinced my dad to be in a play a few years ago, and ever since he has been hooked,” said Sierra. “My parents are my biggest supporters.”

It was during Sierra’s eighth-grade trip to New York City that she saw her first Broadway musical, Wicked. “That was when I discovered that doing musical theater was my dream,” she said.

Over the next few years, Sierra took piano lessons, music, and chorus at USJ and participated in every USJ production.

One of her favorite classes was AP Music Theory with Dr. Grant. “Music theory was an amazing class, and I understand so much more,” she said.

Sierra is one of four graduating seniors from USJ this year to receive the six-year trophy at the All-Northwest Honor Choir. She began competing in the seventh grade and was aided in her preparation by Dr. Grant and choral instructor Dian Eddleman.

Sierra was offered early acceptance into the highly competitive fine arts program at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She won one of only four coveted spots for female students after auditioning on campus in December. The university auditions about 300 students for the bachelor of fine arts, with less than a 2 percent acceptance rate for female applicants. Sierra will pursue her degree in musical theater and minor in dance and vocal performance on an academic merit scholarship.

Mary Poppins was her last USJ performance and, she said, her most challenging. “There are so many difficult songs and dances. But the whole cast has worked so hard, and everyone was very determined. It’s been fun to work with my dad and several teachers who were in the production.”

Sierra’s favorite song in Mary Poppins has been “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious;” however, she also sang a duet with Bert, which she said will be particularly memorable.

“This production of Mary Poppins is special to me for many reasons,” said Glosson, chairman of USJ’s Upper School Foreign Language Department.

“Not only do I get to share the stage with my daughter, but the show also marks the end of a journey for us at USJ. When I began teaching at USJ, Sierra was 6 weeks old, so I have always been able to gauge how long I have been here by her age. USJ, especially the fine arts program, has left an indelible mark on my entire family.” 

Cast of Characters

Admiral Boom R.M. English
Bert Jimmy Glosson
Bird Woman Molly Morris
George Banks Parker Lewis
Chairman Kyle Williams
Jane Banks Meg Miller
John Northbrook Chandler Haynes
Katie Nanna Sydney Lofton
Mary Poppins Sierra Glosson
Michael Banks Ethan Schlegel
Miss Andrews Dian Eddleman
Miss Lark Ashlee Allison
Miss Smythe Jessie Mathis
Mrs. Brill Molly Maroney
Mrs. Corry Sydney Kwasigroh
Neleus Patrick Aherrera
Park Keeper Aaron Evans
Policeman T. J. Johnson
Queen Victoria Sydney Paris
Robertson Ay Alexander Peftoulidis
Von Hussler Seth Weiss
Winifred Banks Caroline Miller
Annie Abby Vaughn
Fannie Meg Howell
Valentine Miguel Sioson
Teddy Bear Ethan Baskin
Mr. Punch Jordan Boyd
Doll Ellie Whisenant
Toys Lili Mahalati
  Madison Maroney
Statue Chorus John Giampapa
  Michael Mantooth
  Keaton Miller
Kite Flyers Jillian Crenshaw
  Bonzi Govind
  Savannah Tabor
  Channing Sellers
  Sydney Sellers

Peyton Antwine, Reese Antwine, Abby Atkins, Allison Banks, Summer Basham, Logan Carey, Erica Davidson, Addison Dunn, Maggie Exum,  Rachel Giampapa, Andrea Glass, Lauren Hailey, Harrison Hamm, Dalton Hockaday, Payton Jett, Fernando Karg, Fernando Gianluigi Mamusa, Clara Mariencheck, Elijah Moore, Frances New, Nicole New, Lauren Nicola, Sydney Paris, Sydney Phelan, Kate Petrinjack, Kristen Pickens, Seth Rohlwing, Caroline Sammons, Miguel Sioson, Nicole Sioson, Katie Watlington, Ellie Whisenant, and Nick Zerfoss.

Park Goers                                                   
Madeline Amos, Grace Bates, Kayla Bircher, Catherine Campbell,  Sarah Carraher, Carie Cates, Bailey Cozart, Molly Dowland, Sarah Frix, Georgina Harlan, Holeh Heydari, Anna Kathryn Horn, Lili Mahalati, Rachael Mahalati, Madison Martin, Mark Miller, Madison Perchik, Maddy Puzdrakiewicz, Clare Robertson, Heidi Rodriguez, Emily Sanderson, Gabby Stevens, Natalie Sullivan, and Shelby Williams.

Peyton Antwine, Reese Antwine, Trent Baldwin, Logan Carey, Trey Corley, John Giampapa, Jordan Henges, Dalton Hockaday, Cullen Hughes, Brad Lofton, Michael Mantooth, Harrison Miller, Keaton Miller, Elijah Moore, Seth Rohlwing, Christopher Schlegel,and Nick Zerfoss.

USJ students perform Seussical

Seussical, a musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss, featured students in grades four through 12.

The production, which appealed to all ages, includes elements from at least 15 of Dr. Seuss’ books, including many of his most beloved characters – Horton, Jojo, the Grinch, and the Cat in the Hat.

The USJ Bruin band, directed by Tom Grant, provided musical accompaniment. Erica Davidson, USJ theatre and acting instructor, was the choreographer. Scott Conley designed the sets. Dr. Tammy Grant was the director with assistance from Jimmy Glosson, USJ Foreign Language Department head.

Seussical’s music was written by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics were written by Lynn Ahrens.

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.

2013-2014 offered an exciting lineup of musicals

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was performed in October. In the spring, the Upper School performed Tarzan, The Stage Musical on February 28 and March 1 and 2, and Middle School students presented 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.