Fifth-graders at Beechwood Elementary School are diving into an arctic adventure complete with polar bears, a snow princess and an abominable snow man.
Students, parents and community members are invited to the school's winter musical production of Roger Emerson's and John Jacobson's The Legend of Polar Mountain, Wednesday, Dec. 12, in the school's new cafetorium.
"It's all very new and so exciting," said Kasey Burt, the school's music teacher and director of this year's production about performing live on the new stage. "In our old school, the stage was never big enough. So this is wonderful."
In fact, because the stage was so small, Burt and her crew were forced to change venues and move their production to the high school.
That was nice, but it wasn't home.
"It's very exciting to be back in our own school," she said last week amid preparations for the production.
Some 95 students -- the school's entire fifth grade -- will participate in the production. Although some have speaking parts or singing solos, most are part of the wintry chorus, a hodgepodge of villagers, adventurers and two lost siblings in a very frosty world.
In the production, an old storyteller tells the tale of a young girl named Galena (played by Michaela Clark-Johnson), her little brother, Tagalong, and their arctic adventure on a magical night on Polar Mountain. Lost in a frigid, snowcapped world where the Northern Lights serve as a backdrop, the two adventurers meet a giant snowman, a snow princess and other characters.
True to the script, Burt recruited one of the school's second-graders, Nathaniel Wickham, for the part of Tagalong, and she says he has stolen the show.
"He keeps all the fifth-graders on their toes," she said. "He learned his lines right away ... and everyone else's."
Students have been preparing for the musical since early October, either during music class or at recess.
Burt said she believes music programs like the one at Beechwood are particularly important for young students. This is her 25th musical production in her 12-year tenure at the school. Burt involves students of all ages in programming throughout the year, from the kindergartners to the fifth-graders, in both formal and not-so-formal productions.
"It's important that kids get to show off what they have learned in music," she said. "I think it is also important to perform in front of an audience."
Beechwood's art teacher, Amanda Griffin, has been aiding the adventurers, helping students create scarves that will be used to reproduce the effect of the Northern Lights.
The Whitehall City School District has been scrutinizing its visual- and performing-arts programs over the past several years, making a concerted effort to provide outlets for elementary students, as well as those in the middle and high school.
The Legend of Polar Mountain is free and open to the public. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Beechwood Elementary School. The cast and crew also will hold a student production that same day at 9:30 a.m., also in the school's cafetorium.
In addition to Clark-Johnson and Wickham, other primary cast members are Isaiah Marsh as Sasquatch, Jalyn Miller as Queen Aurora, Carson Wright as Old Yupic and Cam'Ron Edwards as Mr. Yaka.