There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding The Oakridge School's Fine Arts Department. Upper School students are diligently preparing for the 2020 spring musical, "James and the Giant Peach." They're also eagerly anticipating their visit to the Big Apple, where they will grace the stage at Carnegie Hall, one of the most famous concert halls in the world.
"James and the Giant Peach" is one of Roald Dahl's most heartwarmingly quirky stories. It tells the tale of James, a boy orphaned and living with mean-spirited aunts. He finds himself on a fantastical journey with magically grown insects inside a larger-than-life peach. As they make their way from England to New York's Empire State Building, James and the band of misfit bugs tackle each misfortune and embrace each success, ultimately becoming a family.
The adventurous musical features a wickedly tuneful score from the creative team of "The Greatest Showman" and "Dear Evan Hansen."
Performances are Feb. 20-22 in the Fine Arts Performance Hall and will offer something special this year: a meet and greet with the cast and crew after the final show. When purchasing tickets at www.theoakridgeschool.org/page.cfm?p=11734, patrons should choose "Child Ticket with Meet and Greet" for the Saturday matinee, then stay following the show. There will be snacks and an art activity at no additional cost.
"It's really going to be memorable," said Upper School Drama Teacher Brad DeBorde. "In addition to the Meet and Greet, our student performers are getting an opportunity to learn from Oakridge alumna Lauren Wheat '13. "Lauren graduated from Baylor University in 2017 and works professionally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a scenic designer and painter. We hired her to be the scenic designer for this production and our students have really enjoyed working with and learning from her." (Wheat was featured on pg. 27 of the summer 2019 Outlook magazine).
Just a few short weeks after "James and the Giant Peach" wraps, Upper School choir students will take a magical trip to New York City. They'll get to do some sightseeing, but one of the most incredible opportunities the Oakridge students will get is the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall.
"I don't think any of the students fully understand the magnitude of the opportunity, until they step onto the stage at Carnegie Hall, and they see this iconic, world-renowned concert space," said Director of Choirs Andrew Stewart. "It just kind of floors you at first."
Oakridge works with a company that arranges visits for many different groups throughout the year.
"They bring in five to six high school choirs and we sing with them all," Stewart added. "So, there's this large collective choir, which is kind of fun to be a part of to start with, then you're getting to be in Carnegie Hall, which is pretty spectacular." Stewart said though there is a lot of time spent rehearsing during the trip, there is time to be a tourist.
"We see some Broadway shows and it's just astounding," he added. "It's five days away with your friends and a big chance for the students to bond and gather their collective identity among each other. They're getting to do something important, together, in a really cool place."
Though Stewart has been leading Oakridge students on a trip to New York for many years, the experience never grows old.
"It's just first class all the way around, and it's historic," Stewart reflected. "They hold the choirs in these green rooms that are about six or seven floors up from where the concert hall stage is. Even as you're walking down the stage, you feel the gravity of the situation-- that you're performing on a stage where the Beatles performed, and Luciano Pavarotti performed, and where all of these incredible icons throughout history have performed. So, it's pretty special.
From a personal standpoint - I love seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids from the first time we step off the bus in Times Square to the first time they see Carnegie Hall – and just knowing that they're having an incredible time singing, something that we all love."