When Harrison's First Grade Class announced it would be performing the musical "Punxsutawney Phil - The Story of a Groundhog," Harrison secretly hoped for the titular role of Phil. He was disappointed, at first, when given instead the role of Raccoon #1, but that was before he realized the pivotal role that Racoon #1 has in key points of the Punxsutawney narrative.
Raccoon #1 has 4 lines:
At a point early in the play, when the characters are starting to lose their focus, Raccoon #1 brings them back to the story with the line: "You know, it's really Phil's day."
When the plot is in danger of stagnating, Raccoon #1 kicks off the action with the line: "We have to do something!".
Later, Raccoon #1 sums up the feelings of us all when he says "That was great!"
And finally, his agreeable nature moves things along again with "You bet!"
In short, without Raccoon #1 "Punxsutawney Phil - The Story of a Groundhog" wouldn't have been nearly as action-packed or suspenseful. Also we probably wouldn't have gone to see it.
Harrison spent weeks practicing at home. Cast members were provided with a CD of the music, which we played nightly. Harrison learned his lines (and so did Grace) by repeated read-throughs with Mom. In fact, during the performance Harrison revealed (by subtly mouthing the words) that he knew everyone's lines. I expect we could have dropped him into any role and he would have done fine (unless it required makeup or a girlish costume, which Harrison simply Will Not Do).
There was real-life drama on the day of the performance. Two cast members fell ill with severe digestive distress (first grade translation: They barfed on Mrs. Caldwell). There were no understudies, so Mrs. Caldwell's second-grade son filled in as Phil at the last minute, and Mrs. Caldwell herself fed the cast the lines of the other missing character.
As I mentioned, "Punxsutawney Phil - The Story of a Groundhog" is a musical, and the very first lines of the stirring opener declared the question that would provide much of the dramatic tension for the whole 20-minute play:
Will he see his shadow
in the morning chill?
Would he, indeed. Also, would the young cast make it through the challenging work without their regular lead? Would anyone barf on the audience? Would the parents be able to suppress the urge to sing along with the songs they had been hearing every night for the past several weeks? Could Grace suppress the urge to repeat Harrison's lines aloud (answer to that one: no)? Could Sarah and I keep from running up and squeezing Harrison silly, he was so CUTE in that costume?
In the end, the cast did very well, nobody barfed (that I could detect), the parents sang quietly, as mentioned, Grace did join the cast (from her seat) at one point, and Sarah and I managed to remain seated, too, but it wasn't easy.
As for Phil's shadow, I must admit I didn't catch if he saw it or not. I was too busy paying attention to Raccoon #1.
DVDs of the whole show are available, but below are some brief excerpts demonstrating the talents of the true star of the night: Harrison Orwig as Raccoon #1: