Chocachatti Elementary continued its tradition of producing quality musical shows with the fourth graders’ presentation of “Solar System Saga.” The performance took place on Tuesday, March 8. These shows are part of Chocachatti’s Performing Arts MicroSociety.
Several times a year the “specials” teachers run the children through the paces to a polished performance. Many of them have not had any experience on stage. The specials team is made up of Rhonda Bowers (Dance), Jennifer Flaherty (P.E.), Irmarie Kraft aka “Drama Mama” (Drama), Nancy Kraus (Music), and Marianne Poholek (Art). These dedicated professionals encourage and inspire their students.
Of course, it takes effort on the part of many people to make a show like this successful. The parents need to work with the children to help them learn their lines and support them in other ways. The classroom teachers encourage the students to do their best. It’s probably somewhat of a challenge for the fourth grade teachers−Debra Burzumato, Karen Como, Kim Griffith, Katie Milano, Kim Moynihan, Robert Russell and Jody Ware−to get the children settled down after they’ve just spent forty-five minutes or so learning dance steps and songs. By the way, rehearsing during school time does not exempt the children from doing their regular classroom work. Most of all are the students who rehearse for weeks and, when it’s all over with, take pride in a job well done.
Prior to the show the feelings among the cast were excitement and confidence mixed with nervousness.
Talon Volkes, who plays one of Darth Vader’s stormtroopers, has performed in four shows.
“I’m nervous to see everybody [the audience] there, but I’m confident too. My teacher said ‘just look at their hands and not their faces. Pretend nobody’s there.’ I’ve been practicing my dance at home,” Talon remarked.
“Solar System Saga” is a musical about the planets, stars and other objects that make up our galaxy. It’s both educational and entertaining.
The show opens with Darth Vader and his stormtroopers marching down the aisle and onto the stage. Then Darth Vader makes an announcement, in appropriately menacing tones, asking people to silence their cell phones and refrain from clapping during the songs and dance numbers.
The plot centers around the sun and how “she” is egotistical, knowing that she’s the center of the universe. The other heavenly objects−the moon, planets, comets, asteroids, etc.−decide to take her down a few notches and show her that each of them is important in its own way.
Leilani Nurse did a marvelous job as the sun portraying a wide range of emotions−from haughtiness to despair when the rest of the solar system ignored her and finally happiness when she realizes that she can still be important without feeling superior to others. There’s a lesson in there for all of us.
Practicing at home, as well as at school, Leilani states that it wasn’t really hard to learn all the lines she had in the play.
“The parts I like best is I get to speak a lot and do a lot of dances,” Leilani stated.
Kara Pelham played the very vain Venus. With twelve speaking lines, Kara also states with confidence that it wasn’t difficult to learn her lines.
The chorus sang or danced to a number of songs with weather as their theme, such as “You are My Sunshine” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” Savanna Jackson as Annie from the musical “Annie” sang “Tomorrow” off-key purposely, causing groans from the rest of the cast. Jacob Carritt performed a solo flawlessly on the xylophone.
“During my lunch time after I finished eating lunch, I’d go in the music room and practice,” Jacob remarked.
As far as educational goes−who, besides an astronomer or someone that recently studied the subject −knew there were heavenly bodies called dwarf planets. Examples of these are Ceres, Eris and Pluto.
The costumes were clever. Each student playing the part of these celestial bodies wore a costume representing their particular part. The asteroids wore large, gaudy belts like wrestlers wear. Asteroid belt−get it?
Antonio Kennedy was one of four actors that played an asteroid.
“It’s fun because you get to wear sunglasses and a belt,” Antonio remarked.
The climax of the show occurred when one of the characters found a book on astronomy and discovered that the sun is only an average-sized star compared to all the suns in the universe. Of course, this made all the other celestial objects happy because they did not have to put up with the sun’s bragging any more.
Tenley Pasquariello played one of the comets. He’s had the most experience of any of the children, having been in eight other plays, including one at Stage West.
Chase Stropnicky, wearing a pair of glasses taped in the middle, played the part of Mercury. He’s another veteran actor.
“I like the part because it’s funny. Mercury is the ‘nerd.’ I’m the small planet.”
The students were poised on stage and performed the dances and songs well. One particular dance that the children did was extremely acrobatic and must have taken a lot of practice, as well as dexterity. You could see the pleasure on their faces when the audience clapped and hollered as the actors took their final bow.
Not every child performed on stage. Several, such as Shawn Pagano, worked backstage, taking care of sound and light.
“I take care of a certain microphone. I move it to different levels and different spots,” said Shawn.
Mateo Verdi, another member of the stage crew, remarked, “I play the music and I turn the mikes up and down. The most fun part of stagecraft was that I got to go on Google and search ten hours of fart noises.”
That particular sound comes up when the gas giants are on stage, causing laughter among the cast as well as the audience. You had to be there to appreciate it.
Every student had a chance to participate in some way. Performances like these demonstrate that school isn’t just about reading, writing, arithmetic and science. The arts play an important part in a child’s education.