Students from five Philly elementary schools took the stage at the Walnut Street Theatre on Friday afternoon to perform Disney classics like “The Bare Necessities” and “Friend Like Me” that they’ve practiced and performed at their schools this year through the Disney Musicals in Schools program.
As their families watched, beaming, from the audience, students from New Foundations Charter School, Henry C. Lea Elementary, Russell Byers Charter School, MAST Community Charter School II, and H.B. Hackett Elementary danced and sang in musical numbers.
Disney Musicals in Schools is a grant program that paid for teaching artists from Walnut Street to work with the schools’ staffs for 17 weeks to help choreograph and stage 30-minute Disney KIDS adaptations of classic films like The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and Aladdin. The idea is to equip the teachers with the skills to sustain musical theater at their schools after the grant program ends.
The theater also awarded a scholarship to its 4-week summer theater camp, Camp Walnut, to one student from each school, covering the $1,100 cost to attend.
“When I was growing up I was really fortunate that being part of the theater cast and ensemble and putting on a show was something that happened in all the schools I went to. It was commonplace," said Tom Quinn, director of education at the Walnut Street Theatre. "Most schools in Philly don’t have the opportunity for kids to have that.”
Quinn said it took three years of back and forth with Disney to eventually bring the program to Philly, in a partnership between the theater and the Disney Theatrical Group. The schools applied to participate and were chosen from among 22 applicants.
The program will continue next year, when five new schools are chosen.