south valley civic theatre moana jr
Delphine Sen (center), who performs as Moana, is joined by Savanna Torres (left) and Sienna Avila for South Valley Civic Theatre’s “Moana Jr.” Photo: Jenn Oliphant
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South Valley Civic Theatre is kicking off its new season with “Moana Jr.,” a coming-of-age story featuring an all-youth cast that discovers the value of family and friendships.

Disney’s “Moana Jr.” follows Moana, a teenage girl who sets sail across the Pacific Ocean to save her village while learning about her heritage.

The show opens Sept. 22 and runs through Oct. 7 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse.

Director Jenn Oliphant said the cast of 64 range in age from 6 to 13 years old.

“We have 64 little stars and no shortage of energy,” she said. “Everybody has a chance to shine and everybody is on stage and gets to be heard.”

Oliphant said “Moana Jr.” has a strong message for children, one that teaches them the importance of family and also how to grow up into the person they want to be.

“It’s such an empowering thing for kids,” she said. “We branch out and learn our own skills.”

Oliphant, a longtime crew member of South Valley Civic Theatre, said by not having cast fees, the theater group opens its doors for young actors to experience the stage.

“We open that opportunity to everyone,” she said. “Everyone belongs. Everyone has a place and a chance to be seen and heard.”

Michael Horta, who is producing the show with Ken Christopher, said many performers in the show are not only new to South Valley Civic Theatre, but also to the stage.

“We’re excited to bring this children’s show to the stage,” he said. “Everyone is very excited to be in this production.”

Delphine Sen, 12, who plays Moana, said this is her first time in a leading role.

“There’s a lot of responsibility in the main role,” she said. “You have to set an example. It’s really fun once you get the hang of it.”

Adam Hart, 11, plays Maui, a character described as boisterous and obnoxious who befriends Moana and learns the value of humility and kindness.

Being one of the older cast members in the show comes with its own set of responsibilities, he noted, as he serves as a role model for the younger children and teaches them to follow directions.

“This show is very fun,” Adam said. “It’s not the same old ‘Moana’ you see everyday on Disney+. It’s a whole different story line with new things, new songs and a whole lot of fun stuff.”

Oliphant praised the cast members’ parents for the time they’ve spent helping with the show, from building and painting sets to dropping off their children at rehearsals.

“This has become a fabulous community where kids and adults can find friendship and belonging,” she said.

“Moana Jr.” runs Sept. 22 through Oct. 7 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road. Showtimes are 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays, with 2pm times on Saturdays and Sundays. For information and tickets, visit svct.org/2023_moana.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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