Filichia Features: The Ultimate Student Field Trip - Broadway!

Filichia Features: The Ultimate Student Field Trip - Broadway!

"Who wants to live in New York?" Charley Kringas asks in Merrily We Roll Along.

On Tuesday, hundreds of middle-schoolers from 60 public schools in the five boroughs could have easily cried out "I do!" - for they were about to appear on Broadway.

Yes, on Broadway, the real Broadway, at the Broadhurst Theatre, where Anastasia plays. That morning, the 13th Annual Shubert Foundation/Music Theatre International Broadway Junior Student Finale saw sixteen groups perform one number from the JR. musicals they'd done earlier in the school year.

Department of Education spokesperson Anna Commitante welcomed everyone by noting that the arts "are as important as learning to read, do math and study history."

Freddie Gershon, Co-Chairman of Music Theatre International, pointed out that five million students have now done Broadway JR. shows. Still, comparatively few of them have had the opportunity that those assembled here would soon experience: "Broadway!" he exclaimed. "Flaunt it! Use it! Tweet it! Facebook it!"

Antonia Pantoja Preparatory Academy's students would later agree when performing "Start of Something New" from Disney's High School Musical JR. They put extra emphasis on the line "It feels so right to be here with you."

Michael I. Sovern, president of The Shubert Foundation, stated that the students "will dazzle you with their joy." And he was right.

Vasthy Mompoint and Kelvin Moon Loh, currently in SpongeBob SquarePants, co-emceed. Mompoint admitted that she'd never been cast in any of her high school musicals and yet is now in her seventh Broadway show. Some young eyes widened at that disclosure: there is hope.

Moon Loh asked the crowd "Who's been called 'weird,' 'unique' and 'different'?" Many raised their hands. It was a fitting question for a show that ended with One World Middle School's selection from Shrek JR. that declared: "Let your freak flag fly."

The morning began fittingly with Frederick Douglass Academy VIII Middle School's "Good Morning, Baltimore" from Hairspray JR. At its conclusion, one lad pulled out his suspenders as far as they would go and snapped them back again - the universal symbol for a job well-done.

"What You Want" (Legally Blonde JR.) was spiritedly performed by West End Secondary School, which now houses grades six through eight, but is on track to be a high school as well in four years. Teacher Michele Balsam - who was an intern on the original Broadway production - had a spectacular Elle in Hannah Aronson.

"I Just Can't Wait to Be King" (Disney's The Lion King JR.) from J.H.S. 218 James P. Sinnott featured a Young Simba who delightfully danced with abandon and had Elvis-like moves. That gave the word "King" a nifty extra meaning.

Although costumes are at a minimum here, M.S. 101 Edward R. Byrne School did have many students in brown T-shirts to comment on "The Golden Age of Chocolate" from Roald Dahl's Willie Wonka JR. East Flatbush Community Research School went all-out for its dynamic Genie in Disney's Aladdin JR. by putting him in gold lamé for "Friend Like Me."

Goldie Maple Academy started their selection from Fame JR. with finger snaps that were worthy of West Side Story's Jets. From the same show, The South Bronx Academy for Applied Media did "I Want to Make Magic." Those who claim that kids don't like to sing ballads would've been proven wrong here.

Students from Year Three Broadway Junior Schools broke with tradition when doing "To Life" from Fiddler on the Roof JR. for boys and girls danced together -- very well, in fact. That set the table for "Circle of Life" from Disney's The Lion King JR. from Academy for Young Writers. Their joy was infectious.

The Gordon Parks School for Inquisitive Minds also chose Disney's The Lion King JR., but did "He Lives in You." The young lady playing Rafiki had a sterling voice that easily reached the last row of the balcony. Ethel Merman lives in her.

More fine choreography came in I.S. 5 Walter Crowley Intermediate School's "Welcome to the '60s" (Hairspray JR.) with decade-appropriate dance moves. Kappa V's "Dancin' (Xanadu JR.) traveled even more back in time by employing some '40s jitterbug right down to the finger-wagging.

Each year, Students from Graduated Broadway Junior Schools, as they're officially called, return to do a number. Although they chose "I Won't Grow Up" from Peter Pan JR., they clearly showed that they had grown tremendously.

How much this event means to the students was made clear when M.S. 053 Brian Piccolo's performers did "We're All in This Together" from Disney's High School Musical JR. Only seconds into the number, audience members immediately joined in to sing and clap in unison. Yes, they are all in this together, and bless The Shubert Foundation, Music Theatre International and the NYC Department of Education for bringing hundreds of like-minded students together.


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You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at . His book, The Great Parade: Broadway's Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at