Delaware News

'Dalmatians' puts kids, dogs in spotlight

Willis thespians partner with humane society for production

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Students from Willis Intermediate School rehearse Thursday, March 7, for their production of Disney's 101 Dalmatians Kids. The musical runs Wednesday through Saturday, March 13-16.

The beloved story of dozens of spotted dogs seeking refuge from an evil plot to turn them into a fur coat will take the stage this week at Willis Intermediate School.

A total of 123 fifth- and sixth-grade students will participate in performances of Disney's 101 Dalmatians Kids.

Performances of the musical are set for 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 14-15, with matinees at 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the school.

Tickets are $2 for students and senior citizens, $5 for adults.

In addition, there will be a free public performance at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13.

For the first time this year, the Willis Drama Club has partnered with the Delaware County Humane Society to raise awareness and funds for the society.

Two dress rehearsals of 101 Dalmatians Kids will be open to the public at 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, March 11-12, with contributions going to the humane society.

There are 10 student stage crew members; the rest of the students are split between two full casts that will alternate performances.

Pam Beery, Willis drama coach and director, said the traditional Kanine Krunchies commercial will be shown during the performance -- but with a local twist.

"The commercial will feature dogs from the Delaware Humane Society that they have photographed and filmed," she said. "There will also be video of howling dogs in another part of the show that are from the humane society."

Beery said the show lent itself to working with the humane society and she thought it was a great idea.

A lot of work has gone into the production, Beery said, and many people in the community have donated their time to make it happen.

"We have someone doing our sound and lighting; we have had grandmas working on makeup and parents putting black spots on white pants for months," she said.

Beery said 140 students auditioned for the show; those who did not get a leading role were offered a part in the chorus.

Thirty-three students wanted to be on the stage crew. Because only 10 were needed, Beery relied on teacher recommendations to select the crew.

"There are around 700 students at Willis and it seems about one in every seven students are a part of drama," she said. "It's quite a big group."

Beery said she keeps in touch with many of her former students who participated in drama at Willis and said even if they don't pursue drama any further, they still have learned valuable lessons.

"Some of these students go on to be accountants or work in government, but the skills they learned, such as confidence and speaking in front of people, are helpful to them," she said.

In addition to skills learned, students have a sense of community when they are a part of drama, she said.

"What I love about drama is that both kids who don't fit in anywhere else, along with the most popular kids in school, all fit in. It's inclusive. Everyone is involved and everyone has a place," she said.

"It's a great community."