St. Ja­cobs stu­dents go down the rab­bit hole

The school stages its first mu­si­cal in four years this week with its take on Alice in Won­der­land

The Woolwich Observer - - THE ARTS - WHITNEY NEILSON

ST. JA­COBS PUB­LIC SCHOOL has awak­ened its stu­dents’ imag­i­na­tions with their pro­duc­tion of Alice in Won­der­land.

More than 100 stu­dents from Grades 5 to 8 have been work­ing to put to­gether Lewis Car­roll’s ec­cen­tric tale of quirky char­ac­ters since Jan­uary.

Mu­sic and drama teacher Kate­lyn Vanier is di­rect­ing the show. She says it has been a real com­mu­nity ex­pe­ri­ence for the kids. Stu­dents have been in­volved in ev­ery­thing from ush­er­ing to set build­ing to de­sign­ing posters to build­ing props.

The group gath­ered on Easter Mon­day for their dress re­hearsal to work out the kinks and get used to per­form­ing with new-to-them tech­nol­ogy, like head­set mi­cro­phones.

This is Vanier’s first time di­rect­ing a mu­si­cal at St. Ja­cobs PS, some­thing she says the school has been want­ing to do for a few years.

“I feel like there’s so much ad­ven­ture and imag­i­na­tion that some­times in the mod­ern age of tech­nol­ogy, a lot of it is just fed to kids, and this al­lows kids to ex­plore. Dur­ing class I’ve been go­ing through it with the whole school and we’ve been talk­ing about imag­i­na­tion and what is non­sense and how does that re­late to me and what can we pic­ture in our minds when we think of these dif­fer­ent quirky char­ac­ters. It’s been a lot of fun,” Vanier said.

She says the big­gest chal­lenge has been find­ing time to get the full cast to­gether to re­hearse, since many of the stu­dents have other ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties which keep them busy. But for the stu­dents, she says they’d prob­a­bly say mem­o­riz­ing their lines has been the steep­est learn­ing curve.

The mu­sic is also a good test for the stu­dents. “Alice in Won­der­land was writ­ten in a time when jazz mu­sic was get­ting to be re­ally big and ex­per­i­men­tal in the ‘50s, so a lot of the mu­sic that is in the show is based on those orig­i­nal songs, but they’ve been taken and made more mod­ern. So some of the tim­ing is kind of tricky for the kids and the har­monies have been [tricky too],” Vanier said.

The last mu­si­cal the school put to­gether was The

Wiz­ard of Oz, four years ago. She likes that they both share a sim­i­lar plot with a char­ac­ter trav­el­ling to a mag­i­cal land that’s much dif­fer­ent from their home.

“I think as well, es­pe­cially with our refugees and

peo­ple com­ing in, the kids might not have had those cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences be­fore. It’s neat to see some­one ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing where ev­ery­thing is new to them and they’re just tak­ing it all in,” Vanier said.

The kids’ ver­sion of the play has a few more char­ac­ters than the orig­i­nal story. There are three Alices and three Cheshire Cats, in­stead of just one of each.

“[Alice] grows and shrinks in the show. One of them is small Alice, one of them is tall Alice, and one of them is medium. And there are three Cheshire cats be­cause in the show the Cheshire cat is the nar­ra­tor of the show, and be­cause there’s so much text, that’s how it’s bro­ken up so it’s not so much for one per­son to learn, es­pe­cially for that age group be­cause they are on stage for the whole show,” Vanier ex­plained.

She says the big­gest take­aways for the stu­dents have been the im­por­tance of team work and that there are no small parts.

Vanier would like au­di­ences to leave with a sense of ad­ven­ture.

“I hope that they leave with a smile on their face and a lit­tle feel­ing of ad­ven­ture, that they’ve gone some­where fun with their kids and ex­plored a land that is ec­cen­tric, where any­thing can hap­pen.”

The show opened on Wed­nes­day. There are two ad­di­tional per­for­mances to­day (Apr. 20) at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tick­ets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids and se­niors.

[WHITNEY NEILSON / THE OB­SERVER]

St. Ja­cobs Pub­lic School presents the wacky world of Alice in Won­der­land this week, which in­cludes three Alices and three Cheshire Cats. From left: Re­becca Perry, Avery Leech, Brae­lyn MacPher­son, Jaiden Krupicz, Kierra Martin, and Avery Lehmann.

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