The show must go on.
Despite being separated for months, students in Sterling Elementary School’s performance groups will present a production of Peter Pan, Jr., this evening as a drive-in experience.
Open to the community, the free show will begin at 7 p.m. on a stage on the grounds of Taylor’s United Methodist Church, 766 Old Jesup Road. Gates will open 30 minutes before the start of the performance.
The production will be broadcast through FM radio station 91.5 to enable attendees to enjoy the show from the comfort and safety of their cars.
They’ll be able to park on the church lawn.
This week marked the first time the student group met with each other since school closed. They came together Monday for a three-day music camp that included show rehearsals, as well as crafts, snacks and other fun activities to keep cool in the summer heat.
The Peter Pan, Jr., production was originally set for May 10.
“When I asked them why they wanted to do this, why it was so important for them to do this, the first thing they said was because it’s fun,” said Debbie McIlrath, music teacher at Sterling and director of the show. “And they have just lacked having fun in their lives for the last couple of months.”
During the camp, the group was careful to follow guidelines provided by the Georgia Music Educators Association to promote health and safety. Everyone wore masks while inside and stayed distanced while outdoors. Each student had his or her temperature checked every morning as well.
The students began working on the production in January and were 10 weeks in when schools closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group then transitioned to Zoom and Google Classroom to stay in touch and continue preparing for the annual end-of-year show.
They rehearsed lines, learned dance routines and practiced their vocals in their own homes.
“We divided the cast into four groups — Indians, pirates, Darling Family, and Lost Boys,” McIlrath said. “We had a rehearsal once a week for each one of those groups for an hour.”
Sterling Elementary teachers Alicia Hinson and Jennifer Mullin have helped direct the show and the choreography of the Sterling Steppers, who perform dance numbers.
“These children have not practiced any of the songs together since March,” McIlrath said.
The group of 25 students includes third through fifth graders, one of whom is a St. Francis Xavier student who was set to star in a Ritz Theatre production that was canceled.
“She’s joining us, and she’s had to learn her part in three days,” McIlrath said.
The production will take place on a stage used by Taylor’s United Methodist Church for several months to host drive-in church services before returning to indoor services in June.
Concessions will be available, and all proceeds will go to support the school’s production costs. Donation buckets will also be set up.
McIlrath encourages residents to come out and enjoy the show while supporting music education.
“The children just want to have fun,” she said. “They just want to be together.”