Thursday, April 26, 2012

School House Rock, Live! Jr. Rocks South View!

Unpack Your Adjectives! You'll need them to describe this powerful, collaborative effort. 
Kudos to all!
Ric Dressen @EdinaSuper

Where else can you get your groove on and learn basic grammar and number smarts? On the stage at Dragseth Auditorium in South View Middle School, of course! Students at South View Middle School have been rehearsing School House Rock, Live! Jr. since February, under the direction of Greg Joelson and the musical direction of James Hawthorne.

Based on the popular educational animated shorts aired during Saturday morning programming in the 70’s and 80’s, the show features familiar tunes such as Unpack your Adjectives, Just a Bill, and a rousing finale of Conjunction Junction.  Some of the students were raised on video versions of the songs promoted by their baby boomer parents; others were unfamiliar with these nostalgic jingles when rehearsals began. Everyone is rocking now, though, as the kids have worked hard to master the harmonies and combine dance and action to bring these cartoons to life.

The show follows anxious rookie teacher Tom, played by ninth grade theater-newcomer Declan D., as he prepares for his first day in the classroom. Wondering how he will introduce himself to his third grade class, Tom’s alter egos, portrayed by veteran eighth and ninth grade performers Luci C., Sophie L., Cameron M., Jack S., and Helen W., emerge to reassure him that he has what it takes to tackle the task of educating a room full of 8-year-olds, thanks to the songs and messages of School House Rock. The fun and music begin!

Less of a traditional, plot–based musical, and more of an ensemble production, School House Rock, Live! Jr. has been a change of pace for the theater program at South View. The challenge: originally written for a cast of 6, director Greg Joelson had to adapt the show for a huge group of young teens. His solution: With musical director James Hawthorne, every interested student was included as they created smaller solo, dance and choral ensembles to rehearse the songs and learn the movements, and combined them all over the last four weeks on the stage.  Motivating such a large group of middle school aged kids to sing and dance, and at the same time, is not a task for the faint-hearted! There are few “stars” in this show; instead, the entire cast remains on the stage throughout the production, singing and dancing in each number.

Accommodating 60+ student players on the stage at the same time fell to Edina orchestra teacher Matt Pearson, as set designer for the show. His solution: stack ‘em high! He created, with the help of a dedicated smaller crew of parents and students with drills in hand, a three-tiered set of platforms and stairs to feature the cast. Professional artist and set designer Marjorie Fedyszyn lent her expertise to prop design and production, rendering larger-than-life foam sculptures, including everyone’s favorite, Interplanet Janet, with her small group of dedicated student artists. Rounding out the production team, veteran motion picture costumer Jane Williams designed a costume scheme based on the hues of television screen test patterns, adding the final spark of color to this production.

M. Claps-Gratzek
Please join us! School House Rock, Live! Jr. will appear at the Dragseth Auditorium in South View Middle School at 7 pm on Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27; and at 2 pm on Saturday, April 28. Tickets are available in the theater lobby one hour prior to each performance, or may be purchased in advance at the South View main lobby, April 25-27, 10:30 am-1 pm. Inquiries may be directed to M. Claps-Gratzek at

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