Plenty of preparation, fun go into elementary musicals

TORRINGTON – Three times a year, Hilary Rostad and students at Trail Elementary fill the Torrington High School auditorium with song, dance and laughter. Last week, the Telegram went behind the scenes for a look at all that goes into the making of a successful musical.

Ahead of the fourth-grade musical “Joust!” this Thursday, students hit the ground running in Rostad’s class Friday, reciting lines, playing kazoos and singing and dancing to as many songs as could fit in the 30-minute session.

Rostad – who has worked as a music educator at Trail since 2011, and taught strings at the University of Wyoming for four years – said there is a substantial amount of preparation involved in the musical productions, even before the school year begins.

“As music teachers, we schedule our events the April before the school year starts. However, by the first of May, my programs are selected for the following school year,” Rostad said. “After the musicals are selected, I learn the songs and write in the choreography over the summer. The students start learning their musical eight weeks before our show in order to memorize their speaking parts, songs, and choreography. “A couple weeks before the show, students who signed up to be on my student leadership team have a meeting to discuss costumes and the set, so everything you see at the musical are student-generated ideas, because I truly believe their thoughts should directly reflect what is seen on stage,” she continued. “After our costume and set design meeting, I create our program and gather supplies to create the set. Then I host a parent night the week of the musical to help create and hang our stage decorations. Our musicals would truly not be what they are without the outside help of the high school music and drama teachers who help us coordinate our rehearsals and sound setup, Trail Elementary teachers, and parents.”

Rostad coordinates three musicals a year, one for every grade level at Trail.

“Each grade levels’ musical reflects the personality and ability of the students,” she said. “All students have to be 100 percent prepared after eight weeks of instruction, so I do my best to choose something that is musically challenging for all students and appeals to their interests.”

This Thursday’s event, which begins promptly at 2 and 6:30 p.m., is all about “a different King Arthur legend” and students were eager to share what they enjoy most about the productions.

“I like practicing, ‘cause we get to listen to the songs first and then test them out,” Jayden Judkins said.

“I like the speaking parts, ‘cause it kind of tells you more about the program,” Trishell Pontarolo added. J.R. Ruiz agreed, and said he enjoys acting in front of

people, and Braeden Reid said he likes being assigned his own character.

“I like the costumes you use – you get to create your own,” Gavin Gruhlke said.

Andre Mares said his favorite parts include the songs and “the moves we do.”

For Rostad, the students’ enjoyment is a major highlight.

“I think the thing I enjoy most about our musicals is the students’ excitement,” she said. “They are so excited to perform for their relatives and the community that, throughout our eight weeks of learning, I have heard the majority of students comment on how much they’ve practiced or taken initiative to find and watch other schools perform the songs on YouTube. 

“It is truly amazing to see these kids take initiative in school due to their excitement to put on a good musical.”

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