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Summer Musical a Success Despite Pandemic Challenges

Summer Musical a Success Despite Pandemic Challenges

This year’s summer musical, in partnership with the Mount Prospect Park District, filled every seat of its performances of “Disney’s Descendants: The Musical” at Lions Park this July. The show is based on the popular Disney Channel Original Movies featuring beloved Disney characters and descendants of famous Disney villains. 

Undeterred by soggy weather, more than 50 students participated in the show, which drew rave reviews on social media. It was directed by Jeremy Morton, District 214 Fine Arts Coordinator, with assistance from several other performing arts teachers from throughout the District.

Due to the pandemic, the District collaborated with the Mount Prospect Park District to put on four outdoor performances at the Veterans Memorial Bandshell. This was the first time the District and the park district held a production outdoors, which was a challenge for everyone involved.

“It’s very different. Every rehearsal was in a mask, it was all very distanced from everyone,” said Ariel Williams, a recent graduate from Elk Grove High School who played Maleficent in the show. “We didn’t know that we would be able to perform without masks, so we were ready to perform with masks on the entire time,” she said.

“This really is the first large scale theatre production we’ve ever hosted. For us, it’s interesting to see how it works and how it could evolve into future programming,” said Cheryl Lufitz, the community relations and marketing manager with the Mount Prospect Park District. 

D214 Summer Musicals have been a popular community event for the past eight years. Last year, the District adjusted during the pandemic by creating a “High School Musical” music video, based on Disney’s hit movie. The experience helped staff and students prepare for this year’s production, starting with a virtual audition process. 

“A lot of the kids who participated in that [virtual] experience came back and auditioned again for a live experience, and they were so strong. They were able to know how to do an audition reel. It was really refreshing for us to see that last year’s training and experience really helped them grow and get ready for this year,” said Morton.

Rehearsals started right after school ended. Students had to train to make sure they were physically fit to perform in the summer heat.

“We had to get our students ready for the heat so we did rehearsals outside, warmups outside, we ran the show outside whether it was in warm weather, cold weather, windy weather,” said Morton. “We had them run in masks because we weren’t sure where we would be at the beginning of this process.”

“Doing that with masks on outside, exercising and doing full performances for hours is definitely really hard,” said Williams. “To be able to perform again, it’s definitely worth it.”

Seating for the show was also untraditional. Lawn circles were drawn that could seat up to six people. Staff with the Mount Prospect Park District made additional circles because of the large community response.

“There are a lot of families that are coming to this show because their kids are familiar with Disney and familiar with “The Descendants.” It’s going to be great exposure for them to see when they get older what they can do. I’m very happy to see people not connected to the cast supporting this production,” said Lufitz.

The park district says the door is open for future collaborations. Morton says so far, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences.

 “Not only did we get to be with each other again, but to watch these students learn the craft of performing for a different venue was super cool. I couldn’t be more proud,” he said.  

To watch how the performance came together, click here.