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Draper schools to present ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ ‘Pandora’s Box’

Feb 26, 2019 11:58AM ● By Julie Slama

Sixth-grader Ethan Vidal (center) sings “Honestly Sincere” as Conrad Birdie in Draper Park Middle School’s upcoming performance of “Bye Bye Birdie.” (Erica Heiner/Draper Park Middle School

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Elvis Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1957, few parents of middle school students were alive. However, that isn’t stopping their support of the musical based on his enlistment as Draper Park Middle School students will present a young performers’ version of “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Similarly, Draper Elementary parents are supporting their students in the original production debut of “Pandora’s Box.”

The two shows will be performed this month at Draper Park Middle School, 13133 South 1300 East. Draper Park students will perform “Bye Bye Birdie” at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 6 through Saturday, March 9. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. They are available beginning mid-February through Draper Elementary students’ production of “Pandora’s Box” will be at 6 p.m., Monday, March 25, and the admission is free.

“Bye Bye Birdie” is directed by Erica Heiner, who is new teaching at Draper Park Middle School.

“I looked at previous shows and there have been a lot of Disney musicals,” Heiner said. “I wanted to allow students to have more opportunities than just recreating Disney and this is a fun show that can have many students featured.”

“Bye Bye Birdie” is a story of the rock star Conrad Birdie (performed by sixth-grader Ethan Vidal) performing a song written by his songwriter, Albert Peterson (double cast with eighth-grader Jonathan Lutz and eighth-grader Ian Colton) to a fan selected in a contest dreamt up by Albert’s girlfriend Rosie (double cast with seventh-grader Makenna Stevens and eighth-grader Ellie Griffith). While a young Ohio teen, Kim McAfee (double cast with eighth-grader Samantha Oliphant, who also is a student choreographer, and seventh-grader Kat Smith), is chosen, the twist comes with the jealousy of her boyfriend. The role of Albert’s mother, Mrs. Peterson, is played by eighth-grader Heidi Christensen and eighth-grader Sophie Fiddler.

“I double casted many of the parts to give more opportunities to the students,” Heiner said about the 85-member cast and six-member stage crew. 

Assistant directors are seventh-grader Ashlee Jensen and eighth-grader Avery Johnson. The stage manager is eighth-grader Kameron Miller, who also is a hairdresser; sixth-grader Haylee Lambert has provided additional support for the props; and eighth-grader Andrew Murrill has created sets as a final project for his woodworking class. Additionally, there are five stage technicians, three make-up artists and two hairdressers. Costuming is created by the students with the support of their parents.

The music director is Erin Porter.

Before auditions in early November, Heiner gave clues in a school display case for this year’s musical. She said several students searched the internet to find what the musical may be. 

“It generated a lot of fun and interest. We held an audition where those who preferred not to be in the spotlight could come for a chorus part as well as an audition time for those who wanted to be a soloist or a speaking role,” Heiner said.

Through January, students learned choreography and music, but in February, the rehearsals transitioned into full run-throughs for almost two hours on weekdays after school to prepare for the show. Through the rehearsals, students will learn memorization, presentation, stage skills, teamwork and theater etiquette, she said.

“Through this musical, students will learn they can create more than a Disney cartoon and that reality influences their art. They can look at life to see how it applies and see why this musical still applies today,” Heiner said. “These students are looking forward to bringing this fun show to the stage.”

As are Draper Elementary students with their production of “Pandora’s Box,” written by their librarian Shauna Call, said Madison Ellingson, who is co-directing it with fellow teacher and choir co-director Katie Madsen.

“The kids are super excited,” Ellingson said. “They’re singing a lot of fun songs and dancing and acting alongside it.”

The songs, which Elilngson said many of the parents are excited about as well, include “Thriller,” “Thunder,” “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” and “Celebration.”

The plot involves Pandora receiving another box, which has the gods concerned. When she can’t recall where she placed it, Hades, Poseidon, Hercules and others help her find the box and discover what is inside.

“Shauna approached me this summer and asked if we had decided which musical we were doing and how I would feel about doing one she wanted to write. It’s been a lot of fun,” Ellingson said.

With the help of Beverley Taylor Sorenson Specialist Raegan Ford teaching the last dance number, the 120 second- through fifth-graders have been practicing 30 minutes before school twice each week since late January auditions. The show features three soloists and 20 speaking parts.

For the past several years, Draper Elementary has performed musicals, many recently based on fairytales, in the spring instead of traditional choir concerts.

“I think it pulls in kids who want to join in the spring to do something more than choir. It is an opportunity for them to show off what they can do in the arts,” she said.

In the fall, the past couple years, the elementary choir has sung at Draper City’s Veterans Day program, the city’s tree lighting ceremony and Festival of Trees in addition to school and community performances. 

“A lot of parents support their students’ involvement and see that they’re doing more than just singing at their school concerts,” Ellingson said. “This is allowing them to be more involved in the community, which is broadening their horizon and sparking an interest in school and the arts.”