West Primary thespians prepare for musical debut

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

A persistent yawner stood front and center. One of the soloists was terribly off key. And Lady Liberty wore a garbage bag.

All that &8212; and the stacked cafeteria tables &8212; aside and it was Broadway.

Dress rehearsal for three West Primary kindergarten classes was a piece of cake Thursday. It&8217;s not until Tuesday&8217;s performance that the nerves will start to show.

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Six-year-old Ayriel Williams has a speaking part &8212; a pretty long sentence. She knows it by heart, and says it quite fast. But she knows she&8217;ll be nervous when parents are sitting in the audience staring back.

&8220;I get nervous all the time,&8221; Williams said. &8220;It&8217;s like I&8217;m just shaking.&8221;

The nervousness plagues some of the group, music teacher and play director Bobbye Wynn said, but others just get in front of the microphone and ham it up.

But the show must go on, Wynn said.

&8220;If they get nervous, I tell them to look at me and I&8217;ll tell you the words,&8221; she said.

Tuesday&8217;s performance will be the third of the year for Wynn and West Primary. They will perform one more show in April.

Practice for &8220;The People of America&8221; started just after Christmas. At first the students came to Wynn&8217;s music class just two times a week to work on the play. But last week they started a full rehearsal each day.

&8220;At first we go on stage and the very first thing we do is place them,&8221; Wynn said. &8220;Then we sing through the songs.&8221;

From there they add in the speaking parts, and a little choreography.

&8220;Kids at this age are like sponges,&8221; she said. &8220;They will learn things in music they can&8217;t learn otherwise.&8221;

And this particular play has been a crash course in several subjects. The theme calls for a little geography &8212; students dress as native Americans, Asians, Latin Americans and African Americans. They sing about New York&8217;s Ellis Island, and they use words like acupuncture, sushi and luau.

During practice, when the children come to a word or place they don&8217;t know, Wynn gives them a little lesson.

&8220;If I think they don&8217;t know it, we talk about it,&8221; she said. &8220;My basic degree is not music, and I like to teach across the curriculum.&8221;

Classroom teachers help Wynn select students for the speaking parts and solos, but those who can&8217;t commit to attending night performances don&8217;t get the roles. Wynn said only about half or a third of the student&8217;s parents will bring them back for performances at night.

The students will perform &8220;The People of America&8221; Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. for other West Primary students. At 5:30 p.m., they&8217;ll do the show for the Parent Teacher Association. The also performed at last week&8217;s district-wide Parent University, and will do a show for Head Start next week.

Students with speaking parts mainly learn them at home, Wynn said, but classroom teachers do spend some time helping them.

Daisha Woods, 5, said it didn&8217;t take her long to learn her line.

&8220;I kept practicing,&8221; she said. &8220;With my parents.&8221;

Wynn uses money from an Entergy grant to buy props and some costume materials. She and Principal Cindy Idom sew many of the costumes themselves.