By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The backstage was buzzing with nervous actors. The frog and toad were preparing for their big scenes. The snail was brushing up on her slow motion moves. The squirrels were getting ready to make a mess. And the understudies were standing by.
In front of the stage, on the gymnasium floor, the eager audience sat with their legs criss-cross applesauce style.
When the curtains opened, an excited “ooooooooohhhhh” filled the gym.
That’s just the reaction second grade teacher Stacey Higgins was hoping for with the debut of the first musical Thursday at Crim Elementary School. A dress rehearsal was performed in the morning for fellow students, with the big show to occur in the afternoon for parents and other fans.
The musical, “A Year with Frog and Toad Jr.” featured all the second grade students – an ambitious endeavor with such young students.
“It ties in with our curriculum on the seasons,” Higgins was quick to say. But she added that the performance was also something more.
“They need these types of experiences,” she said. “Too much time is spent testing and preparing for tests. We need to get back to making school meaningful and enjoyable for kids.”
The musical got the kids singing, dancing, acting, reading narration and designing the colorful set. That is all learning, Higgins stressed. “We want them to have experiences other than just taking tests.”
As the audience filed into the gym, and the second graders fidgeted back stage, Higgins admitted to being a little nervous herself.
“It’s a good nervous,” she said. “This if the first time they get to do it in front of an audience.”
The story began as the best children’s stories do – with “Once upon a time…” It went on to tell the tale of two best friends, frog and toad. With the help of an animated chorus and able narrators, the friends navigated the seasons, playing in the summer, raking leaves in fall, sledding in winter, and waking up from hibernation in spring.
The young audience members sat with their wide eyes glued to the stage. They applauded heartily went the cast took their bows at the end.
“What great singing you did,” Crim Principal Melanie Garbig announced to the cast. “I am so proud of you.”
“It’s wonderful,” Garbig said. “It brings out different personalities in the boys and girls. It allows them to shine in a different way.”
The production allowed Darla Davis to shine as a narrator. Adorned with leaves in her hair and on her shirt, Darla read the portion on autumn.
“It was fun talking in front of everyone,” though she admitted to being a tad bit nervous. In addition to learning about the seasons, Darla also learned another important lesson – “not to be scared,” when speaking in front of a crowd.
Aiden Rohleder, another narrator, said the musical was different than normal classroom learning. “I liked the ‘snail with the mail’ song. I think that was a lot of fun.”
Aiden said he learned a valuable lesson, not found on the standardized tests at school. “Even if things mess up, you should just keep going.”
The other second grade teachers in addition to Higgins working on the musical were Emily Bechstein, Rachel Fletcher and Kristin Long. The music director was Tricia Wallace.