Whitehall News

Beechwood Elementary School actors 'raring to go' to North Pole

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While everyone else is still scraping that last little bit of pumpkin from the pie plate and candied yams from the corners of the Tupperware, fifth-graders at Beechwood Elementary School are gearing up for an arctic adventure complete with talking toys and slightly disgruntled elves.

Students, parents and community members need only to follow the Northern Lights to the school's winter stage production, The North Pole Musical, set next Thursday, Dec. 12, in the school's cafetorium.

"The students are very excited to perform on the new stage," said Kasey Burt, the school's music teacher and director of this year's production.

"This is our second year performing in this space. We learned a lot of things about the new space and the sound equipment through trial and error last year, so we are ready and raring to go."

In the musical, all of the characters of the North Pole are getting ready for the 400th anniversary of the North Pole Musical, Burt said. The reindeer are Hoofin' It and the snowmen are Chillin', as exemplified in the songs they sing.

Meanwhile, the elves are upset they are doing all of the hard work, yet never get to be in the show.

Even the toys are preparing to perform The Nutcracker Suite -- all in a matter of three minutes.

But Burt said there's more to the musical than just the hustle and bustle of preparing to go on stage.

In the middle of all the chaos, Santa realizes bigger is not always better, and sets out to find a way to drive home the true meaning of the holiday season.

More than 90 students -- the school's entire fifth grade -- will participate in the production. Eight second-graders also were chosen to play the elves.

The group has been rehearsing since November.

Burt said she believes music programs such as the one at Beechwood are particularly important for young students.

According to a 2012 U.S. Department of Education report, the number of elementary schools with drama programs fell from 20 percent in 1999-2000 to 4 percent in the 2009-10 school year -- and that downward trend is continuing.

But at the same time, music at elementary and secondary levels has remained steady, according to the study.

That's good news to teachers such as Burt, now in her 13th year at the school and debuting her 26th musical production in Whitehall next week.

She said she believes in involving students of all ages in programming throughout the year, from the kindergartners to the fifth-graders, in both formal and not-so-formal productions.

"Music is important in a young child's life for so many reasons," Burt said.

"Music helps raise self-esteem and reduce stress. Music encourages creativity and self-expression. It helps children develop language skills, math skills and listening skills.

"When working on a musical, students learn teamwork skills," Burt said.

"In order for us to pull off a successful performance, all students must work together and listen to each other."

The North Pole Musical is free and open to the public. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at Beechwood Elementary School, 455 Beechwood Road.

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