The future stars of Broadway are honing their skills right here in Greenpoint.
Fourth and Fifth graders at P.S. 31 Samuel F. Dupont Elementary School on Meserole Avenue were the recipients of a grant from Disney Musicals in December – just one of five schools selected citywide from hundreds of schools that applied.
Next week, the group will get to perform a selection of songs from Disney’s 1992 hit Aladdin, at its current home on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater.
“It’s a tremendous everlasting experience for the children,” said Mary Scarlato, the principal at P.S. 31. “They really took ownership of the project. Their self-esteem hit the highest levels. It’s really a once in a lifetime experience for them.”
Eighty-three students from the school – 43 actors and actresses and 40 students working behind the scenes – worked on the program, which involved 18 weeks of training that commenced in January this year.
Students were asked to recreate a 30-minute production of Aladdin, and they received training in singing, dancing, and acting from two Disney professionals.
In fact, next week’s performance will be the group’s fifth – they’ve already performed four times at the school in preparation – twice for students and teachers, once for cast members’ families, and another performance last Friday, which also served as the school’s annual fundraiser, and included an Arabian marketplace with foods, crafts and other entertainment.
“You forget that these students are 9 or 10 years old,” said Sheri Sankner, a second-grade teacher at the school, and the woman who spearheaded the grant process and the subsequent putting together of the play. “We all have dreams of going to a Broadway show but these students actually get to be in one. It’s just a great way to introduce theater and the performing arts to students in school.”
Putting together the play at P.S. 31 has been a collaborative effort from the start with not just the teachers chipping in, but several parents putting their professional skills to the use as well. One set of parents had previously been a part of the Moscow Circus and served as the stage managers and creative designers for the production.
Students working behind the scenes worked on building the sets, creating props, managing lighting and sound, and advertising the show – nothing was off limits.
Students on stage took to it like pros as well.
“I am thrilled,” said Silvano Spagnuolo, 9, a 4th grader at the school, all gussied up and ready to take the stage in his title role as Aladdin. “It’s hardly a week away and I hope I’m ready and good enough. It was so great to see everyone working on this project together and I’m going to be sad to see the 5th graders go.”
The school is hoping to utilize the momentum gained this year to continue bolstering the creative and performing arts program at the school.