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Updated 1 hour ago
Buffalo Elementary fifth-grader Aron Mahan likes to sing in the shower, but soon he will have a larger audience.
Mahan and 30 of his fourth and fifth grade classmates in the Freeport Area School District will perform “Winnie The Pooh Kids” March 2 to 4.
“This is brand new for me,” says Mahan, who landed the lead role of Pooh, the lovable bear from the Hundred Acre Woods. “I had to learn 46 lines. I love being on stage.”
The district's first fully produced elementary school musical was organized by three teachers, Bob Harris, Lauren Clark and Sara Sypulski, with more than 70 students auditioning last September.
“We have turned our little LGI (large group instruction) space at Buffalo into a legitimate theater for this production,” says Harris, musical director and music chairman at Buffalo Elementary in Sarver. “A fully produced musical has never happened here before. The audience will be in for a real treat, I can tell you that, but I don't want to give anything away.”
The cast of 31 have been in rehearsals since October for the Broadway junior show, which runs 40 minutes.
“This is my fifth musical,” says fifth-grader Ella Eyler, who performs in Penn State New Kensington's “Kids In College” summer camps. “I play Owl. I like the attention and the spotlight.”
The plot includes all the recognizable characters from “Winnie The Pooh” — including Tigger, Pooh, Owl and Christopher Robin.
The musical synopsis involves the gang discovering a note left by Christopher Robin, then encountering a sock-eating creature called a “backson,” and working together to save Christopher.
“I play Tigger and get to jump around a lot,” says fourth-grader Anna Kruse, who also performed in the “Kids In College” camps. “I specifically auditioned for Tigger and it is so fun to rehearse for months.”
Fifth-grade art club students volunteered with set design, and costumes were rented from a small company in North Carolina, Harris says.
“From October to February, over 30 students worked on painting backdrops for the musical, lending their time and talents to bring the scenery to life,” says Clark, art teacher at Buffalo.
Parent volunteers raised much-needed funds — $2,500 that covered production costs, Harris says.
Student teacher Matthew Emanuelson from Indiana University of Pennsylvania pitched in as production assistant.
“For these students to have this experience early in their elementary years is great,” Emanuelson says. “It is good for their overall confidence.”
“The students learn a vast array of different things from participating in a musical,” he says.
“Naturally, they are learning to sing, act, dance and move. In addition, the students are learning cooperation, time management, self confidence, poise and more. They are essentially learning what it is like to be successful.”
The five scheduled performances, two for the student body and three for the general public, have already sold out.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
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