ILWACO — “The Polar Express” pulls into the station at the Hilltop Auditorium this weekend, and is bringing with it a whole lot more than hot chocolate!

More than 25 Hilltop Middle School students will be starring in an adaptation of the popular 2004 film, itself an adaptation of the 1985 children’s book, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.

“I’m really seeing students who have been in previous productions take direction and fly with their characters,” said director Cheryl Cochran, noting that a number of the student actors are working hard to bring their characters to life. “Haydon Gentry does an amazing portrayal of the conductor. Aaron Hoygard and Elsa Lindquist are developing deeper emotions for their characters. Newcomer Alex Velencia started as an understudy for [the part of] Peter, but developed his character so well, we are splitting the part with Alex playing Peter on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, and Jaxon Pinto-Fisher on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.”

And while the show will feature similar scenes from the movie, Cochran said she’s put her own spin on the material.

“I wrote a stage version back in 1998 after purchasing [the book] for my daughters,” she said. “After the movie came out, I incorporated bits and pieces along with the scenes I’d written over the years. It’s grown into a wonderful production I’ve directed for school and theatre programs and dance studios I’ve worked at.”

Students from Cochran’s studio, Beach Ballet, will also be performing in the show. The cast will performing several musical numbers as well, including the classic “Hot Chocolate,” as well as the duet “When Christmas Comes to Town” and “Rocking on Top of the World.”

The show will be presented Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m., all at the Hilltop Auditorium. And as with previous Hilltop Drama Club performances, they will be accepting donations in lieu of ticket sales, as well as asking the community to bring a toy to be donated to local toy drives.

“We are hoping to make this an annual event for our wonderful community,” Cochran said.

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