As St. George’s celebrates its 50th anniversary, we are proud to present Meredith Willson’s The Music Man JR. This grand, upbeat musical appeared on Broadway and the silver screen just a few years before our school’s founding and is in many ways a celebration of community, a fitting theme for St. George’s jubilee.
While we unfortunately cannot stage a live production of the musical in the beautiful Salem Theatre due to our current campus closure, we have adopted the old theatre adage: “The show must go on!” Given this physical restraint, we wanted to produce and share The Music Man JR. in a meaningful way that highlighted the talent and dedication that our middle schoolers put into the rehearsal process.
Leaning on the now ubiquitous “virtual classroom,” we recruited students to collaborate in making a behind-the-scenes documentary of their experience and to record cabaret presentations of certain numbers from the musical. While not a fully-realized stage performance, our Music Man JR. video nonetheless showcases the talent and resiliency of our students.
In the three months before the closure of campus, our middle schoolers were engaged in an authentic theatre experience modeled after a typical professional process. Student actors learned about the many layers of storytelling through workshopping music, breaking down choreography, creating character stories, incorporating blocking, and adding nuance with costumes and props.
Student crew members learned how to execute the technical aspects of a fully-realized theatre production by engaging in production meetings and taking on specialized jobs to operate the light board, sound board, spotlights, and curtain rigs. Just as actors learned lines and music, crew members learned their own cues and truly owned their roles and equipment.
In addition to their individual responsibilities, all students — as well as some very generous parents — participated in a number of “tech days,” which provided students hands-on opportunities to construct and paint set pieces, build and tailor costumes, and organize the theatre.
A production that relies on strong storytelling and ensemble work, The Music Man JR. has been a rich learning opportunity that has engaged our middle school students and community in many ways.
Interview with Katie L., 8th Grader
Director Derrick Toups asks eighth grade actress Katie L. (Marian Paroo) about her experience being part of The Music Man JR.
DT: What was it like being in a musical for the first time as an eighth grader?
KL: At first I wanted a small chorus role, and I wasn't even sure about auditioning, but I was really happy that I got to play Marian Paroo.
DT: What was your favorite part of the process?
KL: My favorite part of the process was singing.
DT: What was the hardest part of the process?
KL: The hardest part of the process for me was learning the big dance numbers.
DT: Aside from music, lines, and blocking, what did you learn in the rehearsal process?
KL: I learned a bunch of fun acting games that we played to warm up.
DT: How was the community experience of being in the musical: working with classmates as well as 5th, 6th, and 7th graders?
KL: I got to know people from other grades and do scenes with them.
- 8th Grade
- Creative Arts
- Middle School
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