On Wednesday, March 3, the Princeton Day School Fourth Grade premiered their joint production of "Super Happy Awesome News", a virtual musical written by Jessica Penzias, with music and lyrics written by Denver Casado.
Under the direction of LS Music teacher Julia Beckmann and Operetta special co-director Annie Bryson, and edited masterfully by Assistant Technical Director Evan Paine, each Fourth Grade class produced their own video of the musical, which is designed to be performed remotely. For the premiere to the school community, all three versions were presented on YouTube, providing unique takes on the material by each of the three homerooms.
Each homeroom production featured inspired performances by each fourth grader, as well as cameos by Head of Lower School Dr. Sandy Wang and Head of School Paul J. Stellato in a commercial for "Spicy Day School Sauce."
"Every year, we talk about finding ways for each student to 'be the star' of the production. This year, it felt like that goal came true because this musical has so much equity in stage time and presence built in for each part. It was clear that the students were aware of that and knew that each part was an important, special piece to the whole production," noted Fourth Grade teacher Daniel Cohen, who is also the LS representative on the Community Multicultural Development Team.
Over the years, the annual Fourth Grade Operettas have ranged from the sublime to hilarious, with some meaningful constants: energetic performances by all of the students and cherished memories of the skills they developed rehearsing and producing their own musical. This year's operetta has a particularly poignant theme centering around two siblings who launch rival good news networks and find themselves competing for the title of happiest news show.
"Soon, their correspondents are in a whirlwind of ecstatic musical reporting – from joyful weather forecasts, to cheerful cooking segments and blissful political updates! But, when vulnerability starts peeking through the euphoric facade, they’re left wondering: is there room for raw honesty on a super happy broadcast? This virtual musical incorporates real stories from kids, offering a positive outlet for them to express their emotions," Beat by Beat Press explains in their online synopsis of "Super Happy Awesome News".
"The experience working on this virtual production also opened up our eyes to many ways we can carry valuable production elements forward into future years," Mr. Cohen shared.
"We were able to execute seventeen set changes, maintain perfect lighting and record quality audio so you could clearly hear each performer. It created the opportunity for a much more polished and professional look than ever, with major thanks to Evan Paine for putting it together. We will carry many of these aspects forward with us in future productions to maintain the equity and quality of this year's operetta," he added.
Congratulations, Fourth Grade!
In this video mashup, each fourth grade class performs the operetta finale: