At Mount St. Mary Academy, we take our musicals seriously. Just ask some of our seniors; they've been involved with the shows all four years, despite the fact that -- they all admit it -- balancing the rehearsals with their school assignments, work and social lives is quite the challenge.

Almost all of Mount St. Mary's seniors who participated in the musicals were there for their entire high school careers.

"Ever since grade school, I've loved to be involved with musicals," says Meghan Phelan, who played the Queen of Hearts in this year's production of "Alice in Wonderland." "I won tickets to see Mount perform 'Beauty and the Beast.' It was the best high school production I had ever seen at the time, and I had even more reason to join the musicals the next year."

Lauren McDaniel and Erika Taylor also became interested after seeing previous Mount St. Mary's musicals.

"I saw how fun they looked and I really wanted to be a part of it!," said Lauren.

Across the board, there was one main reason that these girls stayed involved all four years -- friends.

"I stayed in the musical because most of my friends were part of it," says Maria Krieger, another senior at Mount St. Mary's.

"My favorite part is the new people I meet each year!," Meghan adds. "Just the chance to meet people from every grade level that share a common interest and goal has helped me to realize that I don't have to be afraid to make new friends."

Aside from their acquaintances, many of the girls stayed on because of their experiences.

"I love getting the chance to become a completely different person," Meghan says.

Of course, the creation of a show is not solely in the hands of the cast members. Amanda Myers has spent her four Mount St. Mary's musicals alternating between chorus member and stage crew. This past fall, she served as the stage manager.

"My favorite part was that every year was a new obstacle," Amanda said. "I stayed in the musical because they came up with interesting shows."

As stage manager, she was able to assist the director, Renee Schaer, in the setup and planning of the scenery and props.

"The stage manager and crew can voice their opinions, and mostly it all gets done," Amanda says.

As for dancing and choreography, most of the girls agree that Schaer knows best.

"The students themselves don't choreograph," said Lauren. "But after learning the dances, we are able to put our own spin on the moves."

Jessica Hinaman, a senior who has participated for three of her four years, says, "I love the way Mrs. Schaer choreographs the dance pieces because she really knows who we are and what it is we do best, and she's always welcome to suggestions."

The students agree that participating in the musicals has helped to not only develop their acting and singing abilities, but their personalities as a whole.

"Because of the musical, I'm more confident in what I do and say," said Maria. "The musical has made me more outgoing and aware of my talents!"

Erika and Jessica also support this view.

"Being a part of the musical has greatly helped me grow as an individual," Erika says. "It has taught me to get along better with my peers and develop myself, and find other people with the same interests who have helped me grow."

Jessica agrees. "My experiences in the musical have definitely changed me to become a more open-minded person. If you had asked me a few years ago whether I would have participated in and loved the Mount musicals, I never would have said yes. But I loved taking part!"

Rachel Dahl is a senior at Mount St. Mary Academy.