Every year, students and staffs of four Northeast Ohio elementary schools take to the stage and produce their first musical theater performance with the help of Playhouse Square and the Disney Musicals in Schools program presented by Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
The schools receive performance rights, educational support materials and guidance from professional teaching artists – all at no cost to them. The teaching artists work with the classroom educators, training them to produce a musical and to create a sustainable theater program in their schools. The residency culminates in a 30-minute Disney KIDS musical at each school.
We caught up with one of our student participants, Edith, along with her mom Danielle, to talk about her experience with Disney Musicals in Schools and how it led to her first performance on a professional stage at the Beck Center for the Arts.
PSQ: How did you decide you wanted to be a part of Disney Musicals in Schools at your school?
Edith: They were talking about it, and I knew that I liked singing already before that. When I knew there was a play, I was like, well if I do it, nothing can go wrong. So, I’ll just do it!
PSQ: What show did your school do, and what role did you play?
Edith: We did Frozen and I played Elsa.
PSQ: How did it feel going through rehearsals with your friends and then being on stage in front of everyone? Were you nervous?
Edith: I was a little bit nervous, but I was mostly excited to do the show for everybody. During rehearsals, people were saying this is going to be so stressful; but my music teacher is really nice, and the people who came from Playhouse Square were really helpful. And being with my friends, it was really fun!
PSQ: How did it feel to sing “Let It Go” on stage?
Edith: I was really excited! The whole time I kept asking, is it time for “Let It Go” yet? And I did it, and I felt really excited because we had done all of the choreography. It felt so cool to do it in front of an audience.
PSQ: Danielle - How did it feel when you saw Edith on stage?
Danielle: It was amazing. It was overwhelming, but she’s been singing “Let It Go” since she was a baby. So, we’ve been hearing her sing that one for a long time. It was pretty cool to hear her singing it on stage.
PSQ: What was your favorite part of the Disney Musicals in Schools program?
Edith: There were a lot of good things about it. But, I really liked the process. I liked staying after school to learn all about theater and continue to work on the songs. I know the actual show was really fun, but I think I liked the process even more.
PSQ: If you had a piece of advice for classmates who are able to do Disney Musicals in Schools, what would you tell them?
Edith: I would probably want to tell them it can’t hurt to audition. If you don’t get the part, that’s okay because at least you tried. If you do it, it’s a really cool experience.
PSQ: Is this [Disney Musicals in Schools] what got you interested in auditioning for a production at the Beck Center for the Arts?
Edith: I think it did get me interested because if my mom had said, “Oh there’s a theater thing at the Beck Center,” I would have been like “Oh, that’s cool.” But, I wouldn’t have really known what was going to happen. I think if it hadn’t been for Disney Musicals in Schools I might not be here because I might not know what to expect. I think Disney Musicals in Schools helped me know what to expect for real, professional theater if I wanted to do that.
PSQ: What show are you in at the Beck Center for the Arts, and what role do you play?
Edith: The show is called Once on this Island, and I play Little Ti Moune. I think if I had done this and hadn’t done Frozen, I would have been like “Wow, this is a lot! What’s happening? I have to remember all of these lines?” I know I have done concerts at school, but theater is different because you have to remember a lot. Frozen really helped me step up to Once on this Island.
PSQ: Danielle - How has it been seeing Edith grow from the Disney Musicals in Schools' stage to this performance at the Beck Center for the Arts?
Danielle: It’s been a lot, but it’s been really cool seeing how she can handle it. She’s a really special kid. I agree with her – if you want to try, it never hurts to try. Watching Edith do the thing I know she has always wanted to do – we have been watching The Sound of Music since she was a baby, and she would sing “Do-Re-Mi” – so I’ve known she would do something in theater in some way. It’s cool to see it happening already. We love to see her out there having fun.
PSQ: Do you think you’re going to keep on doing theater?
Edith: I think I do want to keep doing things with theater. Once this is over, I want to audition for the next one as soon as I can.
PSQ: What is your dream role on Broadway?
Edith: I would really want to be Angelica or Eliza in Hamilton. That would be really cool.
For more information on Disney Musicals in schools, please visit playhousesquare.org/disney-musicals-in-schools.
“Once on this Island” plays through August 6, 2023, at the Beck Center for the Arts. For more information, please visit beckcenter.org.