KILLEEN, TX — When the curtain finally opens and 14-year old Victoria McKinney sees the audience's faces for the first time, her emotions are as wide as the ocean.
“So much adrenaline, so much peace,” the young actress said. “It feels like I've been working so hard for this for months and I finally get to be able to share what I love to do.”
She scored the part of Moana, her first lead role, her mom said.
McKinney performs at Vive Le Arts Theatre in Killeen when she’s not performing for her school.
It’s safe to say she’s familiar with the big stage, a place where no matter who you are, you can become someone else while on it.
“In my real life, I wouldn't say I'm meek and small, but like, I'm more reserved," Cameron Caple said.
He plays the role of Maui in the musical, another lead part.
“But when Maui comes out, he's out…and he doesn't go back until the lights turn off.”
However, it was not smooth sailing getting here.
The cast dealt with some rough water in the form of a pandemic and a snowstorm, something unusual for Texas…and an island, a fictional one of course.
“These kids have had all kinds of curve-balls thrown at them,” Stephanie Smoot, the director of Moana Jr. said. “They've just took it in stride and have done phenomenal to put on a show that really is incredible.”
In an attempt to stay safe, Smoot explained that the theatre limits its crowds to 50% capacity.
Usually, shows can seat up to 400 people, now 180 people is considered a sellout.
She also said she broke up the 75-person cast into smaller groups, or teams, when rehearing or practicing to limit their exposure.
Beyond that, they eliminated the use of dressing rooms and have since moved those operations outside to space everybody out following CDC health guidelines.
The cast also has to wear their masks when they’re not on the stage performing or practicing.
“Because of that we were able to put 75 kids up on this stage to give them all opportunities that maybe they've never had before,” Smoot said.
Just like in the movie, the kiddos had to deal with hardships before hitting the stage to perform the musical.
“Challenges are something we all have to overcome,” McKinney said. “It's how you try to overcome those challenges that really show your hard work in that show...how you're able to be able to perform awesome.”
Opening night was Thursday and Smoot said that was the only night they fell short of selling out.
If you’re interested in seeing the show there’s still some seats open next weekend.
Tickets range from $10-$14. To see show times, head over to their ticketing page here.