Eyes were big and mouths gaped as the students piled off the buses into the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. Each child was in awe of the huge stage they were about to fill with one well-rehearsed number from the Disney Musical “The Jungle Book.” The excitement was even more palpable as hundreds of students took their seats in the cavernous auditorium.
Seventeen weeks of rehearsals, a very diverse group of students ranging from third to fifth grade and a group of dedicated teaching staff pulled together a phenomenal production which they were about to perform on a world class stage. All kids involved, from all seven schools in the Clark County School System, could hardly contain the excitement of showing off their hard work in front of a packed house and very appreciative audience.
Bowler Elementary School was one of the seven schools accepted into the fourth year of the Disney Musical in Schools Program in September. The program, sponsored by the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and funded by a special grant from Disney Musicals, is an outreach initiative designed to build sustainable musical theatre programs in urban and rural schools. The program pairs professional teaching artists with educators for a semester to rehearse, design, build and mount each school’s first Disney Musical.
At the end of the year’s program the students are invited to “Student Share,” in which all the schools perform one number from their production on stage at the Smith Center.
Of the seven schools chosen for the program this year, six out of the group chose the Disney musical “The Jungle Book.” Melanie Jupp, Smith Center and Disney Musicals in Schools Program director, said, “Usually there are a variety of shows chosen by the various schools so we have a very diverse Student Share Program. There were several other choices available such as ‘Winnie the Pooh,’ ‘Aristrocats,’ ‘Aladdin,’ ‘The Lion King’ and ‘101 Dalmations’ and ‘Cinderella’ but ‘The Jungle Book’ was the most popular by far. It’s going to be a challenge to schedule Student Share this year so we don’t have every school performing the same piece.”
Each school gets to choose the number they want to perform for Student Share and it’s on a first come, first served basis. Bowler got their request in first so they did get to perform their number one choice.
The Bowler Elementary kids opened the Student Share with the Jungle Book Prologue, which introduces all the characters in the show. Jupp scheduled the musical pieces so the other schools followed with songs in order of how they appeared in the show to ensure that there weren’t two of the same songs being performed. The audience had a unique opportunity to see the show, nearly in its entirety, performed by six different groups.
Musical theater combines all the art forms and provides an engaging opportunity for young people to work onstage or behind the scenes. But beyond the joys of storytelling onstage, musical theater fosters creativity, collaboration, communication, problem-solving and empathy.
Forty-eight students worked on the performance portion of the production while nearly the same number of students worked on creating the set and all 90 students participated in the Student Share. The set designers joined their performing friends on stage for the Jungle Book Prologue and although their presence didn’t add much to the stage at the Smith Center, the talent they displayed shows well on the stage at Bowler Elementary School.
There is still an opportunity to see the product of the students’ hard work on Friday, March 10 at 5:30 p.m. when they will host a dinner and show; come hungry, they’re serving up an appetizing spaghetti dinner for just $7 per person or $25 for immediate families.
There will also be a final show on March 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person or $15 for immediate family; both shows are a fundraising effort to raise money to sustain the program for years to come. For more information on the show times and where to purchase tickets please call the office at 702-346-1900.