When the Huns invade, one man from each family must join the war effort, so Mulan rushes off to war in her elderly father’s place. Mushu, her (tiny) dragon spirit guide with a big personality, helps her both survive and keep her identity a secret.
“In the process of selflessly saving her father from going off to war, Mulan not only saves the day and brings honor to her family in the end, but she also finds herself along the way,” says Heather Walker, who directs Spotlight Youth Theatre’s production of “Mulan Jr.” onstage this month. “She finds that her destiny is not what everyone expects of her.”
This story set in ancient China comes to life March 2-18 at Glendale’s Spotlight Youth Theatre. Audiences may be familiar with the story from Disney’s 1998 Oscar-nominated animated film “Mulan.” The musical calls for a large cast, and there’s no shortage of local young talent.
In the role of Mulan is Jazlynn Damasco, a 14-year-old freshman at Glendale Preparatory Academy in Peoria. She was last seen in “Annie Jr.” for Theater Works and has also appeared at Arizona Broadway Theatre. Disney’s “Mulan JR.” is her fourth show at Spotlight. Others were “South Pacific,” “School of Rock” and “Junie B. Jones The Musical.”
Taking the part of Mushu is Callista Walker, a 15-year-old sophomore at Ironwood High School in Glendale. She performed in her first show at the age of 7 and has been doing theater ever since. Following her role as Mushu, she’ll appear as Carolyn in “The Bridges of Madison County” for Arizona Broadway Theatre.
Kai Jinn is Captain Shang, a Chinese army captain and Mulan’s superior officer. Kai spends his free time performing with his rock band, the Master Chemists. A 2017 Spotlight production of “School of Rock” allowed him to combine his interest in music with theater. Since then, he’s been in several Spotlight and Theater Works productions.
Walker says the story is still relevant and relatable.
“Although it is set in Ancient China, the story’s themes are relatable across cultures and generations,” she says. “Mulan could be any person in any time or place doing something amazing for all the right reasons. We stand up and take notice when we see someone changing the norms of the day for the better, pushing the boundaries of tradition, not for selfish gain or to make a point, but in order to honor our own loved ones.”
Need any more reasons to come along on this journey? “Besides the lesson, the story is set to very fun music,” she says, adding the characters are “lively, funny and imaginative” and that “the dances are energetic!”
“Overall, this show is fun for all ages!” she adds.
If you go: March 2-18; 7 p.m. Fridays; 7 p.m. Saturdays, additional 2 p.m. matinees March 10 and 17. $13 plus a $1.50 fee. Spotlight Youth Theatre, 10620 N. 43rd Ave., Glendale. 602-843-8318 or spotlightyouththeatre.org.