Hayden Lewis loves to act.
The St. Joseph Middle School student is participating in the The Champaign Urbana Theatre Company Penguin Project production of Disney’s “Frozen, Jr.” at Urbana High School’s Cobb Auditorium on, with performances at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“I like to act because I don’t have the opportunity to at my school and I like to have fun and make new friends,” Lewis said.
The musical, which sees Lewis starring as Hans, is based on the 2013 Disney film and the 2018 Broadway adaptation.
“I like being one of the main characters and I started to really like acting after my first year of The Penguin Project when I got the role of Aladdin,” Lewis said. “I also love how I can be myself.”
The production is unique because it stars 32 children with special needs including down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, visual impairments, hearing impairments and other neurological disorders.
They are partnered with peer mentors, a group of children who have volunteered to work with the actors and guide them through four months of rehearsals and the final production.
Lewis said he enjoys playing Hans and the physicality of the role.
“I get to fall down and that’s my favorite part of the whole show,” he said. “I also like that I get to play a main character.”
The show is directed by Jaclyn Loewenstein, with musical direction by Debra Myers and choreography by Courtney Davies.
The Penguin Project was started in Peoria in 2004 and has become a national program with 26 replication sites in 15 states throughout the country.
Lewis said people should come to Frozen Jr. and support The Penguin Project.
“People should come see my show because it is funny and it is cool to get to see all of the other kids with disabilities on stage having fun,” he said. “This program highlights everyone and it is entertaining.”
For more information on CUTC or to purchase tickets, please visit cutheatreco.org.
Tickets are also available at the door.