Backstage Banter

Talent, enthusiasm take a bow at PS 81


Spending time with classmates. Creating future memories. Making new friends. Working as a team.

Those were some of the reasons parents and fourth-grade students at P.S. 81 Robert Christen’s annual musical “There’s No Business Like Show Business” shared about being a part of the show during dress rehearsal last Friday. In this year’s production, students sang and danced to popular songs from Broadway shows.

“I think it’s really fun to just act it out,” said Madeleine Spark, a 10-year-old, who has been a part of P.S. 81’s annual production since kindergarten. “Everything comes to life. And, if we enjoy it on stage, then the people enjoy it too.”

Spark also learned a lot about other plays and songs as well as what they meant, like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel.”

“I didn’t know that song or why we were wearing soccer jerseys until our teachers told us,” Spark said, adding she loved seeing the costumes of all of the different grades, learning what songs they will sing, and figuring out if she’s heard the tune before.

Hadasah Ndegwa said hearing the school’s version of the song made her curious about the Broadway version. After not having time to be a part of the annual show for the past two years, Ndegwa was happy to be back performing with her classmates.

“I want to do it before fifth grade and before I leave the school so I could have memories of coming back here and having a fun time with my friends,” she said.

Being part of P.S. 81’s annual show required a lot of dedication.

“You have to be there with hard commitment,” Ndegwa said. “It’s a lot of work, but at the end, everything, it turns out right.”

For classmate Noah Raine, the best part is getting to perform onstage in front of an audience.

“I think it’s fun to spend time with your friends and to act,” he said. “It’s fun for me. You do so many rehearsals, and when it’s finally the show date, it’s you’re like, ‘Man, I felt like we started yesterday.’”

Frances Taylor-Brown, a parent at the school who volunteered to work with fourth-graders on choreography said the kids “blossomed” throughout the rehearsal process. She threw in some tough choreography at the fourth-graders, learning everything from country line dancing to circle dancing. The class would show their moves when they danced to the song “Footloose” from the 1984 film, which later became a Broadway show.

Working together taught the performers life skills, Taylor-Brown said, as they learned to work as a team on a dance move, or to save a place for someone if a student was not able to attend practice that day.

This year’s theme featured songs from past and currently running Broadway shows like “Chicago,” “Hamilton” and “The Wiz.” Students from every grade sing one song and dance to another one during the second half of the event.

P.S. 81 principal Anne Kirrane praised the work of parents and students. “Just to watch the children on stage, and to see their work and the passion that the children have,” she said, “that’s what the community is about.”