Theatre Jacksonville’s 2015 Summer Camp staged its student production on August 12-13 at the Harold K. Smith Playhouse in San Marco. It had been several years since we last saw one of these productions and this year’s river-themed special caught our eye. Camp Theatre Jacksonville partnered with Jacksonville Dance Theatre, a fellow Cultural Fusion member, for “Rollin’ On The River City.”

This was a 90-minute revue with a strong emphasis on the spectacular St. Johns River, the dramatic defining feature of our city. The large cast of 95 students, ranging in age from 6 to 14, performed in red, yellow, green, and blue tee shirts with a “Rollin’ on the River” logo on the front. The shirt colors identified age groupings; the youngest wore red while the oldest wore yellow.

The adventure opened with Maude (Angelina Rodgers) and Maisey (Bayleigh Miller) inheriting a houseboat from their grandmother to start their journey. One of the opening numbers, which featured most of the cast, was “Trouble,” from “The Music Man,” sung as a solo by Elizabeth Cohen as Mrs. Carrington; she sang several additional solos during the show.

The program did not list all the scenes, which would have been a tremendous task, as there were probably thirty or more. The songs with the cast listings in the program included: “Cry Me A River,” with Cason Barnes, Riley Fluharty, Isabella Cross, and Summer Itaborai; “Waterfalls,” with Lydia Broward, Alayna Speckman, and Tracy Lukach;”Bridge over Troubled Water,” with Campbell Miller and Haley Jane Copeland; and “Down to the River,” with Izzi Alleggretti, Hannah Bardhi, Ethan Brehm, Camila Gonzalez, and Genevieve Lehman. The solo rendition by Olivia Peters of the classic “Old Man River,” from “Showboat,” was a crowd favorite.

The selection “Wade in the Water” was choreographed by Tiffany Fish.

The student performers obviously put in a lot of rehearsal time. The staging required precision and excellent timing, as each musical number had a varying group of participants, and as one group finished, another group immediately filled the stage.

While some of the music was recorded, a good portion was live, with Erin Barnes, the musical theatre instructor, on piano and Jalen Roark on drums.

The camp is offered in two sessions every year. The Camp Director is Juan Unzueta; the Assistant Director is Leanne Gullo. Instructors included Laura Mauldin (Acting), who also wrote the script for the show; Curtis Williams (Dance) and Ron Shreve (Hodge Podge). In addition, the session had sixteen counselors from age 15 to 19. The counselors received their time in the spotlight, performing a rousing rendition of “One” from “A Chorus Line.”

Both the opening and closing numbers had the entire cast on stage, singing as a group. It was an awesome sight, which ended with a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd.

For many of the students, the camp experiences they have participated in this summer will affect them in their daily lives in the future. Working with others in a theatrical setting can support self-esteem, patience, confidence, new friendships, and new interests, just to name a few possible benefits.

In September, Theatre Jacksonville will begin year-round education classes for ages 7 – 18 in 10 afternoon sessions. For more information, visit


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.