Karson Luna, playing Snow White, performs during Hermon Middle School's dress rehearsal of "The Ever After: A Musical." Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

When Haleigh Rice volunteered to help her eighth grader organize the first-ever drama club at Hermon Middle School, she expected about a dozen kids would come to the initial organizational meeting. 

Instead, 63 showed up, about 20 percent of the school’s student body. That kind of turnout may be common for soccer or basketball tryouts but not for plays.

“We had to change our end goal from doing a small one-act to something bigger,” she said.

The result was the club’s first production, “The Ever After: A Musical,” which the students performed Thursday evening at the Hermon High School auditorium. The students’ show, written by Nathan Hartswick with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur, should not be confused with the adult show, “Ever After The Musical.”

Cinderella’s ugly step sisters played by Evelyn Mayhew (left) and Bella Howard sing a song during the dress rehearsal of Hermon Middle School’s “The Ever After: A Musical” on Wednesday. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / D

The production for the newly formed club featured a set, costumes, lights, props, mics and music — all the things Hermon High School students had for their recent production of “Grease” on the same stage. After conflicts with other events were sorted out, more than 43 students worked on the show, with close to 30 of them onstage and the rest behind the scenes.

The show, which runs about 45 minutes, takes place on the set of a television talk show. The hosts bring in fairy tale characters who have conflicts and try to resolve them. The guests include Cinderella and her two “beauty-impaired” step-sisters, as well as Snow White, the Evil Queen and her talking mirror. 

“Plays have been done at the middle school, but I don’t think they’ve ever done a musical to this scale before,” said Rice, who directed the show. “We had no budget, so we went to businesses in the community and asked for donations. If they gave us $200 or more, they got a live commercial during the show.”

Those commercials, written by Rice and performed by students, provided some of the best laughs in the show, especially when a snowman sporting a carrot nose and a twig arm showed up to endorse a local heating firm. 

Madison Hobbs, 13, played the Evil Queen. 

Haleigh Rice, director of Hermon Middle School’s show called “The Ever After: A Musical,” started the school’s first drama club this year. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

“I thought if I’m going to go out on a limb and do a play, why not go all the way out and just go for the Evil Queen,” the eighth grader said. “I think she’s super cool and really powerful. I love playing a powerful woman. This has been an amazing opportunity for us.”

The first play fifth grader Allison Piehler ever saw was Hermon High School’s production of “Grease” last month. She loved it, and knew she’d made the right decision to join the new drama club even though she would not be onstage.

“I really like being artistic,” she said. “I like that it’s a fairy tale, and I like that it’s a musical. I’d like to have a singing part, but I get stage fright.”

Instead of performing, Allison helped organize the costumes for the show and made sure there were safety pins and tape backstage just in case there were any “wardrobe malfunctions” during the show.

Jayelle Pelletier, playing Cinderella, sings during dress rehearsal of  “The Ever After: A Musical” on Wednesday. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Christie Robinson, the drama teacher at Hermon High School, welcomed the news that a drama club had been formed at the middle school. She directed “Grease,” which was the first musical performed at the high school since 2018. The production drew far more interest from students than she’d expected, with about 50 involved in the show.

Robinson, who is working on growing the high school’s theater arts program, said having a drama club at the middle school will help prepare students to take advantage of offerings at the high school.

“The fact that they can dip their toes into the theater world is really impressive,” she said. “When they get to the high school, they will have the opportunity to try acting, stagecraft or just reading plays if that is what they are interested in. It is great that they are exposing themselves to theater in middle school so they can get ready for what’s to come at the high school.”