The grade school musical is a time-honored American tradition, so it's only appropriate that Brook-Park School students this year will honor America itself when they hit the stage next Tuesday.
On March 22, the school's first- through fourth-graders will present "This is America" in the Brook-Park gymnasium at 6 p.m. for parents and community members. On Wednesday, March 23 at 9:45 a.m., students will present a "command performance" for fifth- and sixth-graders, senior citizens and members of other community groups.
The musical revue will feature students in grades one through four in a patriotic tribute to veterans and others, such as firefighters and police officers who work to protect residents everyday.
"It's a tribute to heroes, but also to the country," said Brook-Park Music Teacher Cynthia St. Peter, who has organized the spring shows in Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 for the past 28 years, "and about how we've remained strong in our beliefs."
St. Peter has contacted residents about the show through the district's newsletter. She has also reached out to VFW posts in both Brookfield and LaGrange. Two Iraq war veterans will be on hand for the show, as well as firefighters and police officers.
Actually, the students thought big when they made out the list of invitees. In addition to local folks, the students also sent one to the White House, just in case there's some free time in President George W. Bush's schedule.
"We sent a formal invitation to his scheduler's office," St. Peter said. "We haven't heard back yet, but they kids were hyped up even for [sending the invite]."
Students at Brook-Park present two musicals per year under St. Peter's direction. The first is typically just before the winter holiday break, and the other is in spring. And while, it may not seem like it's spring these days, the musical will actually take place just two days after the first official day of spring.
The themes of the musicals are usually upbeat, positive affairs, but St. Peter thought this year was a particularly apropos time for a patriotic show. The show was written by Teresa Jennings, and published by Plank Road Publishing, which specializes in music targeted to elementary schools. The firm is headquartered, coincidentally, in Brookfield, Wis.
This particular show will be more elaborate than usual, St. Peter said, and should last just about an hour.
"It's more visual, and there's more orchestration than ever before, more speaking parts and more costumes involved," she said.
The show's highlights are five songs, which will feature different grades along with "solo ensembles" that feature smaller groups of students. Fourth-graders will also be spotlighted during three recorder pieces, including "Ode to Joy," "Amazing Grace" and "When the Saints Go Marching In."
One of the shows main songs, "American Tears" was written just after Sept. 11, 2001 to recognize the heroes who contributed in some way on that day and in its aftermath. It will be prior to that piece that the community heroes in the audience will be recognized.
"We're going to read the names of any community hero who responds to our invitation," St. Peter said.
The finale of the show, "Lights of Freedom," will pay tribute to all 50 states in the union.
Some 50 students will hold lights representing each state, whose name will be called out. A portable spotlight will be used to highlight each individual state.
According to the Plank Road Publishing Web site, the "Lights of Freedom" piece is "a very fitting and triumphant end to this amazing revue. It is sure to lift high the spirits of those in the audience and of those performing it as well."
St. Peter emphasized that the revue is the result of an effort that involved the entire school community. In addition to the Music Department, the Art Department and Learning Center were heavily involved, and the PE Department was involved in the dance aspect of the show.
Fourth graders, for example, made representations of all 50 states in art class, which will be mounted on the walls of the gym and be used in the show's finale. St. Peter also stressed that every student who wanted a speaking part in the show received one.
Parents got involved, too, helping put together costumes for the show. "They are invaluable," St. Peter said. "They have been outstanding."
For more information on the show, contact Brook-Park School at 354-3740.