Middle school students journey with Lewis and Clark

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., Mar. 14, 2011
Sacajawea, flanked by cast members, sings "Tumblin' Waters." Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Sacajawea, flanked by cast members, sings "Tumblin' Waters." Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Griswold Middle School students “traveled back in time” to tell the story of one of history’s most famous trips – the Lewis and Clark expedition – at this week’ s annual middle school musical.

“Lewis and Clark – The Musical” featured all the usual characters – explorers William Lewis and Meriwether Clark; their native American guide Sacajawea and her French husband, Charbonneau (complete with over-the-top “French” accent); even President Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned the expedition, and Napoleon Bonaparte, who sold the land to the U.S.

But the tale came to tuneful life through the framework of a school report in the present day. Students portraying a teacher and her classroom of 21st-century middle schoolers “dozed off” during a particularly boring account of the Voyage of Discovery. In their dream, the participants came to life and told their story through anything-but-boring song and dance.

Musical numbers  ranged in style from a soulful rendition of the old spiritual “Wayfaring Stranger” to the lament of the expedition dog, Scannon, about how “ruff” the trip was, including a disco number with re-worked lyrics to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Napoleon singing, “Let’s Make a Deal” to the tune of “La Marseillaise.”

Nearly 40 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders took part in the musical, with additional students providing the music, running the lights and helping with the set, which was dominated by a huge map of the Louisiana Purchase.

Music teacher Kathy Bocciarelli said the performance was particularly exciting for the kids because it was the first musical performed in the newly-renovated auditorium. That project marked the finale of the middle school additions and renovations, she said.

It’s a fresh look for what was originally the district’s high school auditorium. New green velvet curtains festooned the stage and side alcoves. “They kept the quaintness of it,” said Bocciarelli, gesturing toward the rows of newly-upholstered seats. “There’s the old ‘GHS’ on the seats.”

Bocciarelli said that the middle school puts on a musical production every March. This year’s after-school practices started in early January and continued for 10 weeks.  The production was staged several times for students from the elementary school, and again in an evening performance for family and friends.

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