When Gracie Dalferes first began to sing the words “a dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep,” her young, timid voice was akin to the faux mice surrounding her. Eventually, the lead of "Cinderella KIDS" was emboldened by the dream, and she was transformed into a determined singing, dancing believer.

Dreams, like seeds planted in a stage and nourished by spotlights, were cultivated in the hearts of elementary-aged children who participated in the Zachary High Drama kids camp June 3-8. Rosie Witcher, one of the teacher-coordinators involved in the camp, said future growth was a prime motivation. “This is just something that we are doing gratis,” she said. “We are donating our time to encourage kids to do theater and to, hopefully, gather kids into Talented Theatre.”

Witcher said the theater team was excited as early as the auditions by the potential and began to identify children for talented screenings. “So that was excellent because we want to farm them into having those skills while they are young,” she said.

Talented theater can start as early as kindergarten and first grade. Students can be identified by a teacher and they go through an audition process.

Witcher, in her first year of teaching in Zachary, is experiencing a return to her roots. She was born and raised in New Orleans, but she and her husband left after the oil-and-gas bust and moved west. When they lived in California, she worked for a children’s theater troupe before moving to Arizona where she got an advanced degree in theater for young people. Later, she earned teaching credentials to teach as a drama specialist K-12.

“I can pretty much teach all ages, and I have my credentials for theater as talented and regular classes,” Witcher said.

The coordinators held auditions Sunday. They topped out at 35 campers, which was perfect for this production, and then the transformation began.

"Cinderella KIDS" is a fairly traditional telling of the Cinderella story. A young girl is left to the care of a mean-spirited stepmother after her father’s death. She becomes the servant of her stepsisters but dreams of a life of love and beautiful experiences. Cinderella’s friends and confidants are the household pets and the horde of rodents —adorably cute kiddie mice.

Add a handsome single prince, a bachelorette ball, a fairy godmother and what do you have? A bippity, boppity, boo-tiful happy ending.

The students worked on the show Monday through Friday morning and then performed for three sold-out performances Friday afternoon. “These kids are like Broadway, they are going to go home and be so tired,” Witcher said.

The Zachary theater program pulled from both its current students and alumni to staff the camp and produce the resulting production. The teen students helped with everything from stage production to keeping campers safe and on task.

Witcher was thrilled the camp was able to have Alana Scott serve as music director. Scott, who shined in many Zachary High musicals and ensemble groups, is a junior music major at LSU. “She’s so talented,” Witcher said. “The kids just think the world of her.”

Scott has finished two years of college, so she still has peers at Zachary High. “People love her so much they just want to come back and work with her,” Witcher said. “Who wouldn’t?”