By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — KENMORE — Lindbergh Elementary students will take their audience on a whirlwind trip to Paris this week — from a feline point of view.
The school will present its first full-scale musical, “Disney’s The Aristocats Kids, “ in a student performance today and public performances at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. The show, based on the 1970 Disney movie, features the talents of nearly 100 fourth- and fifth-grade students in lead roles, chorus and stage crew.
Jamie Holden, show
co-director and a music teacher at the school, said that the show has been in the works for years, as equipment to upgrade the auditorium was purchased and the facility, now called the Jordyn D’Alimonte Performing Arts Center, was dedicated to the memory of a late student.
The show was chosen last April and Holden and co-director Laura Waggoner started planning over the summer. Since auditions right before Thanksgiving, students have been rehearsing two or three times a week on the story of story of pampered feline Duchess and her three kittens and trials they go through after being cat-napped.
“I’m a big believer in music and art for the sake of music and art. Music and art are important,” Holden said. “(The students) get collaboration, they get teamwork, they get confidence, the experience of being up in front of an audience. The lessons will last a lifetime.”
Waggoner, a first-grade teacher, agreed.
“They’re getting so many learning experiences,” she said of the young actors and crew. “They are working together. Every child is using their own talents. We have kids on the stage crew and kids on stage. Everyone’s helping.”
In addition to the on-stage learning, Holden said, the lessons have extended to the other grade levels and classrooms. The movie is set in 1910 Paris, and students have learned about French culture and art, he said. Second-graders created posters for the show that hang throughout the school.
While members of the acting and chorus groups assembled on stage for a recent rehearsal, Dylan DiNunzio, 9, watched from among the stage crew. His job, he said, is managing the microphones that each actor wears.
“It’s not as easy as it seems,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than last year’s talent show! You have to pay attention. I didn’t know that there were so many mics, or how hard the job was at first.
“You can’t get too close to the speakers with the mics too high ... or you get some very, very loud feedback.”
Luke Bailey, 11, plays a lead role, that of Thomas O’Malley, the alley cat who helps Duchess and kittens Marie, Toulouse and Berlioz return to their home after their cat-napping.
“It’s just really fun, and it’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “(The show is) really good, but it takes a long time to get there. And we’re almost there.”
Bailey has acted before, but said this is his first musical.
“Dancing is new for me,” he said, “and I like that too.”
Abby Ladik, 9, who plays an alley cat, said that it’s her first time in a show.
“I learned that when you’re in a big group, you have to pay attention to what everyone’s doing so you know what you’re supposed to do,” she said. “It takes a lot of work to be in a show. And I like that everybody gets a part, even it they didn’t get a lead.”
The sense of cooperation, Holden and Waggoner said, also extends outside the school walls. They praised the more than 60 community volunteers — parents, grandparents, business owners, neighbors and friends — who have made the performance possible.
“It’s really caused this sense of community,” Holden said. “We’ve made a lot of friends.”
It’s appropriate, Waggoner said, that the show itself has a theme of cooperation: “Everybody’s the same under their fur.”
“It’s a really nice message,” she said, “that everybody’s unique, but they can all work together for a common goal.”IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Disney The Aristocats Kids" • WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday • WHERE: Lindbergh Elementary School, 184 Irving Terrace, Kenmore • COST: Tickets are $5 each; children 3 and younger are admitted free if sitting with a parent. For more information, contact Dawn Oliveri at firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-0008.