Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District News Article

Oxford Presents 'Jungle Book KIDS' March 22-24

Mar. 16, 2018 -- On a recent snowy afternoon, 45 Oxford students gathered in the gym after the school bell had rung. They were not heading home to relax, or dashing off to soccer practice, or playing at a friend’s house. They were spending the next 90 minutes rehearsing for their upcoming production of Jungle Book Kids.

These dedicated 3rd, 4th and 5th graders have been working for five months to prepare for their annual spring musical. Some of them formed a circle to warm up their bodies and their voices with theater exercises. Others were on stage moving props and setting up risers. All of them were key members of Oxford’s musical theater program, which was established three years ago with a grant from Playhouse Square and Disney Musicals in Schools.

This year’s production of the Jungle Book will take place on Oxford’s stage next week, with 7 p.m. shows on Thursday, March 22 and Friday, March 23 and a 2 p.m. show on Saturday, March 24. Tickets can be reserved here.

While the participating students learn stage direction and memorize their lines, they also gain other, less tangible life skills. “These kids come alive on stage,” said Mr. Carpenter, “and gain a sense of confidence that might elude them in the classroom. We have seen a team of kids come together around a common goal and work collaboratively over many months to make that goal a reality.”

Third grade teacher Alexia Boyles, who serves as the show’s co-choreographer, agreed. “Beyond developing a deeper appreciation for the arts, they learn to tell stories in a different way. And they have an outlet to show their talents beyond things like standardized tests.” Boyles received training from Playhouse Square along with several other teachers.

Cast on stage performing Jungle Book

In addition to the staff members working hard to bring this show to life, there is a circle of supporters without whom none of this would be possible. Mr. Carpenter’s parents, both retired teachers, spend months crafting costumes for the entire cast. And parents, teachers and community members make financial contributions to keep the program alive, through a GoFundMe account set up by first grade teacher Jazmine Monroe. While that grant money runs out this year, lead teacher Patrick Carpenter said the musicals will “absolutely continue in some way, shape or form.”

But, more than all the adults working behind the scenes, the heart and the soul of the show comes from the children. My’Kayla Shaw, the 5th grader who plays Ballou, is thrilled to have this opportunity. “I just love being on the stage and showing my talents and my passion. When I act, I feel like a totally different person, with a lot of personalities.”

Her talent and commitment have been rewarded, as she played roles in each of the last two Oxford productions and had the chance to sing with the elementary chorus in Heights High’s production of Shrek this past fall. “I feel like one day, I will be on that stage,” she said of the high school performers. “And I will be able to do that.”

Cast performing Jungle Book on Oxford stage 

Members of the stage crew have also learned how significant their role is to a show’s success. Many of them admit that it’s “harder than I thought it would be.” But 4th grader Ahmed Williams was strategic in deciding which role to sign up for. “I knew I wanted to do stage crew so I wouldn’t have to memorize all those lines!”

Riley Wilson, a 4th grader who plays Mowgli, is “a little bit nervous. But I got used to all my lines. They just stuck to me after coming to so many rehearsals.”

After all these months of hard work, the ending is a little bittersweet. “When it’s all over, I think I’ll feel proud and excited and a little bit tired,” said Riley. 

Mr. Carpenter will likely feel the same way: proud and excited and a little bit tired. “These students have grown so much this school year that I am mainly just excited for them to show their classmates and families what they are capable of - seeing a child live up to their potential is one of the greatest gifts of this program.”

Oxford cast performing The Jungle Book

Print This Article
View text-based website