Sheffield Village/Sheffield Lake
By Michele Murphy
It was an invasion, but a friendly one, as 126 face-painted, costumed, happy second-graders entered the gym at Forestlawn School in Sheffield Lake. Minutes earlier, an equal number of moms, dads, younger siblings, grandparents and friends had invaded the gym from the parking lot, eager to see what had turned the school into a jungle for the day.
As little lions, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, cheetahs, zebras or leopards trooped onto risers, guests readied cameras and kept smiling back and forth at each other.
“It’s a jungle out there,” the chorus sang to their audience. And for emphasis, a little lion would occasionally emit a loud “Roar!”
This jungle, however, felt very different from the work or freeway jungles the grown-ups in the audience knew.
For 40 minutes, different groups of children stepped from the risers to deliver rehearsed lines, then were joined again as the entire class sang about animals, friends or teamwork.
The program was the brainchild of veteran music teacher Andrea Stell, who sat near the front to cue songs or offer a prompt for a forgotten line. She has been at the heart of Forestlawn’s annual spring concert for a number of years, assisted by technology teacher Mary Cogdell, librarian Susanne Kamms, phys. ed. teacher Chloe Fadenholtz and art teacher Stephony Brown.
The gym and hallway area adjacent to it were decorated by student-made art featuring jungle animals. The event is held annually, however the theme always changes. Principal Gretchen Loper says the annual concert “gives children performance experience in front of a crowd,” thus building their confidence. It also highlights the importance of the the arts in the school curriculum.
Adam Rithamel was one of the parents in the audience. He was there to watch his son, Hunter, who had a role in the “Good Friends” segment of the program. Dad was busy taking photos on his phone then texting them with notes to his wife, Hunter’s mom, who was at work. Asked why he wanted to see the performance, Rithamel replied, “So he knows he’s cared for.”
Scott Lunn was also standing in the back watching his daughter Skye, who had the role of a cheetah in the performance. Nearby, Skye’s mom and little sister sat on the floor watching the goings-on. Lunn said he was there because he had been unable to attend the last few programs his daughter was in. He smiled at a photo of his daughter hugging a friend returning to the risers following her performance.
The children sang a song entitled “We Are Party Animals,” complete with wiggles and hand movements. “Party on down,” they sang, and the audience did.
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