Cast members rehearse in preparation for next weekend's presentation of Camp Rock: The Musical at the Ahwatukee Children's Theatre. (6/17/2011)

Morgan Sailor/Special to AFN

Aspiring actors and singers are hard at work rehearsing for this weekend's opening of "Camp Rock: The Musical" at the Ahwatukee Children's Theatre.

There are only a few days left of practice before the opening of their almost sold-out show and performers are taking a cue from the theme of the musical by working hard, but having fun.

"The moral of the story," said show director Bailey Isenberg, "is to work together as a team and not to take life too seriously because you need to have fun in the end."

While an important lesson, this similarity is not the only way in which the show parallels real life. The musical itself centers around children returning to a summer music camp not unlike the Ahwatukee Children's Theatre, where roughly half of the cast of 41 are returning from previous shows.

The storyline of the musical is based on Disney's sequel to its original "Camp Rock" and features a compilation of 16 songs taken from both of the films. After a summer away, children return to camp only to find themselves confronted with a rival nearby, Camp Star, which threatens to shut them down. Determined to save their beloved camp, the group rallies together and challenges Camp Star to a Final Jam showdown to be broadcast on television.

The production is abundant in innocent love stories as well as conflicts. Lead characters Mitchie Torres, played by 11-year-old Olivia Smith, and Shane Gray, played by Jacob Hedeby, 11, highlight these tense emotions of the pre-teen years with skill and a natural on-stage chemistry.

While rehearsing, the cast of 9-to-13-year-olds is all business. But off stage the chemistry dissolves into the banter and jokes typical for this age group.

"In my yearbook, my teacher said I'm not going to miss you being loud," said a smiling Jacob while reflecting on how much fun it is to be loud. "Here I can kind of be whatever I want to be and express myself through songs and stuff."

Taylor Day, 11, who plays the show's antagonist, Tess Tyler, said she likes playing roles that are different than herself.

"I'm like the diva. That's nothing like me in real life," said Day, who will be playing her first leading part.

"I went for the lead. I wanted Tess the most," Day continued, who didn't think she was going to get the part. "When they emailed me I was like oh-my-gosh!"

Tickets are still available for the June 25 showing at 2 p.m. and can be purchased for $15 either at the door, 5051 E. Elliot Road, or by calling (480) 705-9391.

"Camp Rock: The Musical" will hit the ACT stage again next month and enrollment for that show ends on July 5. Registration is $350 and it will be performed with the new cast July 23 to 25.

Morgan Sailor is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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