As the sun sets on Suwanee Town Center on July 30 and 31, 17-year-old Laila Abreu will take the stage for Broadway in the Park as a lead character who is much like herself. 

“Moana and I have very similar characteristics as we are both charismatic, passionate and strong-willed,” Abreu said. “I really just get to be myself when I am onstage as Moana!” 

Moana is the title character in “Moana JR.,” a 60-minute adaptation of the 2016 Disney animated film, which is one of two performances that are part of Suwanee Performing Arts’ 2021 Broadway in the Park production. The companion piece to “Moana JR.” is “The Pirates of Penzance JR.,” an hour-long, swashbuckling adventure based on the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. 

With about 25 cast members in each performance, “The Pirates of Penzance JR.” will feature middle school students, while high school students will perform “Moana JR.” 

“You’ve got something for everybody in each show,” said Susanna Wilson, who works in development for Suwanee Performing Arts. “The talent that these kids have is just incredible. I am so excited to see all of the hard work being put into these shows pay off in performance!” 

“Moana JR.” and “The Pirates of Penzance JR.” were selected for the 2020 Broadway in the Park production, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It is no secret that the pandemic has placed major setbacks on many of us, so I think being able to perform a full-scale production will really bring out the pure excitement and love that comes with musical theater,” Abreu said, “and I really hope the audiences will be able to share these feelings with us throughout these performances!” 

“Moana JR.” is Abreu’s fourth Broadway in the Park production with Suwanee Performing Arts. She also appeared in “Madagascar JR.” followed by “Aladdin JR.” and “Frozen JR.” 

“I auditioned for Broadway in the Park for the experiences, memories and friends I get to make,” Abreu said. “I have a huge passion for everything musical theater and being able to perform for so many families in Suwanee truly enlightens me!”

If you go

  • What: Suwanee Performing Arts’ Broadway in the Park, featuring “Moana JR.” and “The Pirates of Penzance JR.”
  • When: 7 p.m. Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31
  • Where: Suwanee Town Center, 330 Town Center Ave., Suwanee
  • Cost: Various prices for reserved seating and free for spaces outside the main seating area
  • For more information: Visit 
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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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