MUSICAL - Students of St. Peter School in Lincoln perform during the junior high musical, “I Believe.” The musical employs contemporary Christian songs to help tell the story of what teens face in modern society. (Courtesy photo)
LINCOLN (SNR) - This year’s musical at St. Peter School in Lincoln was a powerful opportunity for 55 seventh- and eighth-graders to share what they believe in.
Titled “Yes, I Believe,” the musical was created by Joel Lindsey, Tony Wood and Jeff Atwood and arranged by Dove Award-winning artist Steven V. Taylor. The musical employs several contemporary Christian songs to help tell the story of what teens face in our modern society.
One character struggles to find his identity. Another questions her faith as she finds herself unable to see how the sorrows and tragedies of everyday life can be reconciled with the love of God.
St. Peter School’s music teacher Shirley Moore found the musical when she was searching for an appropriate script for her students.
“I really wanted a Christian musical that was geared toward junior high kids,” said Mrs. Moore.”
With a few tweaks, the musical was just right for St. Peter’s school kids. It had drama, creative choreography and plenty of upbeat songs, all presented within the context of faith in the Lord. There was even comic relief, as a group of students portrayed “geeks” trying to fit in with the popular crowd.
She said the most moving part of the entire show took place during one of the final musical numbers.
“We had the kids write down 10 things they really did believe, and then we chose one from each kids’s list,” explained Mrs Moore.
Each student took his or her turn at the microphone, reciting that one thing they believed in. According to Mrs. Moore, the impact was “really quite powerful. I think that was very moving for the audience, especially the parents.”
The musical is one of the electives that the junior high students at St. Peter can experience during the spring semester. Most of the students opt to audition, learning to act, sing and dance.
In previous years, Mrs. Moore has selected musicals from the Broadway Junior series – long-running hits, edited for content and length so that they are suitable for younger performers. Or, she and the principal of the school, Sister Mary Alma, C.K., have ventured into rewriting a script themselves. Previous productions have included "God-spell Junior,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Joan of Arc” and “Les Miserábles.”
“All the shows we’ve done have been set in a different time period with more adult situations,” Mrs. Moore said. “(‘I Believe’) was geared toward kids, set in a high school on the last day of school.”
Once the script was chosen, Mrs. Moore auditioned the students and chose parts for them carefully. Even though she’s taught most of the students since preschool, she always has a few surprises at auditions.
“Sometimes, they hide their gifts,” she said.
She noted that it’s difficult for a director to cast any show, because invariably, some of the students are disappointed. However, she said the St. Peter School students quickly overcame any misgivings and got into the team spirit.
Mrs. Moore collaborated with librarian Rhonda Purbaugh, who teaches the students acting, and art teacher Sarah Moore, who handles the choreography. The students met twice a week for some time, and then every day after school during the last two weeks before the show.
It can be a grueling experience, and Mrs. Moore requires a firm commitment from students and their parents before the first read-through.
“I make them sign a contract,” she said. “I think they learned a lot about not giving up, taking direction, and supporting other people,” she said.”They had to learn that we’re not in this just for ourselves but to tell a story as a group.”
Mrs. Moore continued, “I’m extremely proud of these kids, of their hard work and their willingness to hone their skills at acting, singing and dancing.”
Even more so, she was amazed at their poise and honesty as they stood before the microphone one by one and revealed their personal beliefs.
“That takes a lot of guts,” she said.