A young cast of 16 is bringing the world of 1862 London to life on a middle-school stage as they rehearse “Heartstrong,” an original musical written, produced and directed by Leslie Garrick, 17, a senior at Oregon City’s Alliance Charter Academy.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Pictured left to right, back row: Emily Wright, 16, and Jeremy McNeff, 13. Front row: Caden Marshall, 17, Kayla Martin, 16, Sydney Heim, 15, and Bella Power, 12.The musical will play for two nights, Feb. 21 and 22, at Ogden Middle School in Oregon City, and will be the culmination of a project that Garrick began writing three years ago.

In his production of "Heartstrong," the year is 1862, the world is changing, and young Victoria Heartstrong is all alone on the unforgiving streets of London. There she struggles to survive alongside her fellow street urchins, finding work where she can, living every day on her own.

Until one day when fate gives her a new challenge — two children, left all alone by their mother’s death, are left in Victoria’s care.

Now she must sacrifice everything to keep them alive and protect them from the horrors of life on the streets. But just when all seems hopeless, Victoria meets a rich young man who offers to help, yet seems to be keeping secrets.

“Victoria’s story is one of struggle and poverty that, through the power of love, becomes one of beauty and strength, and shows that light can overcome even the darkest night,” Leslie said.

The Oregon City resident knows a bit about struggle. She has worked hard to find backers to help her produce her musical.

She and her team, primarily fellow high school students, with the help of teachers, parents and local businesses, have worked to get “Heartstrong” on stage, Garrick said, adding that she has raised production funds through car washes, bake sales, silent auctions and other fundraisers.

Surprises, challenges

Garrick has been in plays before, but as she put this production together, she was surprised by “the amount of work and collaboration it requires.”

Her biggest challenge has been dealing with the large number of people in the cast, and the fact that she has to “instruct, conduct and arrange” them and the music, all at the same time.

Although Garrick grew up in a musical family, both her parents studied opera and classical music, she had never even been in a musical before, and now finds herself directing one.

Garrick wrote all the music, but, because she does not read music, she played the music on her keyboard, and whatever she played was transferred onto her computer as sheet music.

Then a friend of hers, who can read music, edited the music and arranged it, for her own senior project.

“Heartstrong” features a live orchestra in the pit, consisting mainly of Oregon City High School students, with some from Alliance Charter Academy and Clackamas Community College.

Garrick thinks the audience will like the fact that the cast, orchestra and technical staff are all students, who have stepped up to help her realize her dream.

“This is more than a musical, and more than a young girl’s senior project," she added. "It is proof that with hard work, determination and support, anything can be done.”


What: An original musical written, directed and produced by Leslie Garrick.

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22

Where: Ogden Middle School Cafetorium, 14133 Donovan Road, Oregon City

Tickets: Available at the door or online at; adults, $8; students/seniors, $6

More: Visit

The cast includes Audrey Bacon, Elizabeth and Victoria Flaherty, Sydney Heim, Cody Kline, Caden Marshall, Kayla Martin, Jeremy and Raechel McNeff, Bella Power, Princess Haley Rose, Julie Shaber, Ashlan and Evelyn Watt, Fletcher Wold and Emily Wright.

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