There are few things more adorable than a bunch of cute kids singing, even off-key, in unison. Unless it’s those same kids, dressed as zebras and lions of fancy Parisian cats, singing Disney songs. It’s almost too much.
For about an hour on Tuesday evening, that brand of cuteness took over the huge stage at the Kravis Center in the form of about 140 area elementary school students participating in a program called “Disney Musicals in Schools.”
The performance, including selections from kid-adapted stage versions of “The Lion King” and “The Aristocats,” was a culmination of a 17-week collaboration between Disney, the Kravis Center education staff and these kids, who, like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland before them, gathered all of their moxie, enthusiasm and spunk to put on a show.
Actually, make that shows — earlier this spring they performed the full 30-minute versions of “Lion King KIDS” and “The Aristocats KIDS” for their families, friends and communities at their schools: Lantana’s Starlight Cove Elementary, West Palm Beach’s Egret Lake Elementary and Forest Park Elementary, and Belle Glade’s Glade View Elementary. Then at Tuesday’s Student Share Celebration, they got to make their debuts at the Kravis Center, on the same stage where professional Broadway performers frequently play.
And it’s an experience they won’t forget, they say.
“It’s an actual stage, and that’s more exciting. There’s more space,” explained 10-year-old Crisa Colmenares, who played young lioness Nala in Egret Lake’s version of “The Lion King KIDS.”
For Crisa and her friends, “Disney Musicals in Schools” is an opportunity to show off their talent and sing familiar classics like “The Circle of Life” and “Everybody Wants To Be A Cat.” Her classmate Drew Neita, 11, who played wise bird adviser Rafiki in “The Lion King,” says that “the performing is the best part.”
But for these Title 1 schools and communities, it’s something precious in this critical time for arts education, which is often the first thing abandoned in public schools because of the cost. The program offers each school the script and performance materials. These alone can cost thousands of dollars, but are given for free, along with a teaching artist, through the Kravis Center, who works with the students and their teachers for 17 weeks to prepare the play.
At the Kravis Center performance, it was announced that Disney is offering all of the participating schools another free play for the 2018-19 school year. Applications for schools who want to participate are due April 27 and more information can be found on kravis.org/professional.
That news was met with thunderous applause. Crisa, Drew and cast-mate Jariaya Jones, 10, all plan to be there onstage next year. And they all want to play the same part, no matter what show is picked.
“The main character,” Drew says, simply.