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Gwinnett teens take stage for "High School Musical 2'

Four Gwinnett teens took the stage at the Fox Theatre on Thursday in the professional stage premiere of Disney's "High School Musical 2."

Gabriella Arenas, Rachel Froug, Ian Schwaner and Ben Winchell were cast as members of the teen ensemble for the production.

Arenas, 15, a Lawrenceville resident, got involved in acting at Gwinnett's New London Theatre. She has since appeared in numerous performances at the Fox, including the recent run of "Les Miserables" and the first "High School Musical."

"I love doing things at the Fox," the Brookwood High School sophomore said. "The Fox gives you chills every time you get on the stage. It's just a really cool place to be."

Froug, 15, was actually looking for tickets online to see "Wicked," her favorite musical, when she saw that auditions were being held for "High School Musical 2." And although Thursday's show was to be Froug's professional theater debut, she was no stranger to a stage. The reigning Miss Northeast Georgia Girl is involved in pageants and sings in several performance ensembles, performing in front of audiences since she was 5.

Duluth resident Ben Winchell, 14, has been involved in theater since about the age of 5. The homeschooled student said his mom, Kathy Winchell, who has been involved with acting and directing, was the person who encouraged him to get involved in performing.

"I've always wanted to do a show down at the Fox," Winchell said, "and I like "High School Musical.' I'm really excited to be able to do this."

Schwaner, 15, began dancing at the age of 7, which led to an involvement in community theater. He has since been pursuing dancing, acting, singing and modeling.

The Lawrenceville resident and St. Pius student auditioned for the first "High School Musical" at the Fox, and although he wasn't cast in that show, he tried again for "High School Musical 2," and this time his audition paid off.

"Being in the Fox Theatre and dancing on that stage is so much fun, so inspiring," Schwaner said.

All four teens said they would like to pursue performing professionally.

"If I can, I would do anything I could to try to make it on Broadway or in acting," Arenas said.

"After (this) I hope to take what I've taken from "High School Musical 2' and pursue the more professional Atlanta area performance world," Schwaner said.

Gwinnett's own "High School Musical 2" ensemble cast members can be seen on the Fox Theatre stage through Nov. 16.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Disney's "High School Musical 2: On Stage"

· When: Through Nov. 16

* Where: Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta

· For more information: Visit www.foxtheatre.org