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CHAMPAIGN — Exuberant young people and pop songs power a youth production of “Emma!: A Pop Musical.”

Chandler Dalton is directing the Twin City Theatre Company’s “Stars of Tomorrow” musical.

It opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the SoDo Theatre, 111 S. Neil St., C.

Based on the Jane Austen novel, the musical by Eric Price tells how Austen’s Emma, a senior at Highbury Prep, is certain she knows what’s best for her classmates’ love lives.

The matchmaker is determined to find the perfect boyfriend for shy sophomore Harriet by the end of the school year.

The new musical features some hit songs by familiar girl groups from past decades.

Also in the mix, current favorites such as Katy Perry join in with the Supremes.

A small ensemble is accompanying them.

Twin City Theatre Company’s “Stars of Tomorrow” student production not only features middle- and high-schoolers on stage, but high school and college students filling staff, creative and backstage positions.

This gives students interested in a theater career hands-on experience in all the areas that are needed to create a successful production, according to the director.

Dalton directed last year’s show, “13.”

“Emma” was a natural choice for Dalton to follow up.

“It was on the list for this year,” she said. “I really like the storyline and the songs and I really wanted to direct it. If I wasn’t going to do it with Twin City, then I definitely would have done it at St. Joseph-Ogden, where I am the drama director.”

With 15 people in the cast, there’s a lot of sound and joy.

“I have four of my St. Joseph-Ogden students in the cast,” Dalton said. “They are Sammi Schmidt (Emma), Mitchell Whitlock (Jeff), Emmy Houston (Ashley) and Zander Dressen (Mr. Weston/Ensemble).

“I have been asking my students for four years now to come and do a summer show with me, so I am very excited to have them,” she said.

It’s also a family affair.

“This is also the second show that I have gotten to direct that has my youngest sister Reese Dalton (Welcoming Committee) in it. I love doing shows with my sisters and I love watching them follow in my footsteps. Working with Reese has been great,” Dalton added.


Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).