Eighty students in grades three–five at Swigert Elementary worked all year on The Music Man, which they performed two nights at the end of the school year. “I love the kids’ enthusiasm and the pride they feel in themselves achieved from months of being part of a working ensemble,” says director Jennifer Carabetta.
The production is part of the school’s Exploration Program, Friday afternoon sessions led by parents on a variety of fun subjects for kids to participate in. Last year the students performed Annie, which was Carabetta’s first time directing at the elementary level.
The Music Man is a musical about a con man, Harold Hill, who visits an Iowa town and poses as a band organizer. He plans to leave town without giving a single music lesson, but things do not go according to plan. It’s a story about falling in love, community and of course, music.
Carabetta says the play is very difficult musically. “The rhythm and timing have to be perfect. We had 10 mics going through the show, with 18 kids switching mics backstage, costume changes, so many scene changes and prop cues—there is so much to remember as an actor in this show.”
Gabriella Meurer, a Stapleton resident who just finished fifth grade at Swigert, played a piccolo lady, a silly obnoxious woman who is always in other people’s business. She practiced all week for tryouts. Her brother, Graham, who just finished third grade, had no intention to try out, but randomly showed up. He got a part as a band member.
By the end, the children’s cast spent more than 40 hours rehearsing. “I went to all the rehearsals and did whatever I could to help—ran music, kept people focused, and then during the show a few parents and I were backstage,” says Carrie Meurer, Gabriella and Graham’s mom.
The three agreed the first night had a few bumps, but the second went exceptionally well. “I think Elliot [the Music Man] did really good. I don’t think he made one mistake, at all,” Gabriella says.
Carrie almost forgot these were 8- to 10-year-olds. “They knew all their lines and remembered all their choreography. Plus, Jen was incredibly patient working with so many kids with so many different personalities.”
Gabriella and Graham are on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding theater performance. Gabriella was also a part of Annie last year and has attended theater camps at DSA, with intentions to perform in more theater productions next year at her new school, Denver Discovery. Graham, not so much. “It’s way too hard. I’d rather play football,” he says. Still, he is happy he participated and plans to continue taking music lessons at Neighborhood Music Stapleton.
“Being on stage isn’t for everyone,” Carabetta says. “My goal with doing the musicals at Swigert is to instill a life-long love of theater in these kids, even if it’s just as an audience member.”