Julius E. Sprauve School students, standing at left, mastered several impressive dances as part of the musical, which was created by John Tartaglia, in back.
Dream big and you never know what you can achieve.
That was the heart-felt message fourth grade students from each island school and St. John School of the Arts dancers delivered at the show-stopping “Dream, Wish, Believe” performance on Friday night, February 18.
After two weeks of training with five professional actors, singers, dancers and puppeteers from New York City, the St. John students took to a specially-constructed stage at the Westin Resort and Villas and put on two jaw-dropping performances of the original musical “Dream, Wish, Believe.”
Created by puppeteer and Tony-nominated Broadway actor John Tartaglia, the musical performances were the culminating events of the two-week “Broadway Comes to St. John” program hosted by St. John School of the Arts.
Along with Tartaglia, Michael Shawn Lewis, Rhonda Miller, Donna Drake and Laura Barnao spent two hours each day over two weeks with island fourth graders teaching them songs, choreography, narration and even creating the puppets for the show.
Gifft Hill School students showed off their puppetry skills as part of the cast of “Dream, Wish, Believe” along with fourth graders from JESS and GBS.
All of their hard-work was evident in “Dream, Wish, Believe,” which told the tale of a St. John donkey named Gideon, who wished more than anything to live in the sea. With vivid narration, fancy footwork and rousing tunes, Gideon’s transformation from lonely donkey to the first sea horse was brought to life through puppets, songs and dances. The show brought many in the audience to tears and the entire house to its feet.
Through the sale of raffle tickets — for the chance to win a weekend in New York City at the W Times Square, tickets to three Broadway shows and dinner at two top Theater District restaurants — and seats in the 6 p.m. performance and dine-around, St. John School of the Arts was able to raise more than $30,000 to continue supporting arts education on Love City.
SJSA angel supporters paid $200 a ticket for the chance to see the 6 p.m. performance, enjoy a champagne reception and a gourmet meal at either La Tapa, Lime Inn, Morgan’s Mango, Ocean Grill, Rhumb Lines, Waterfront Bistro or Zozo’s Ristorante as part of the Cruz Bay “dine-around.”
After selling most of the 200 available raffle tickets, St. John architect Michael Milne won the coveted Broadway weekend in New York City.
Guy Benjamin School students showed off their impressive singing talent, standing, while GHS students pitched in with puppets.
On the heels of the 6 p.m. “Angel” show, students got right back on stage for an 8 p.m. performance, which was open to the public for a donation of any kind to SJSA.
While the program was designed as a fund raiser for SJSA, it turned into so much more, explained one “Angel” who whole-heartedly enjoyed the show.
“Of course originally, this was about fund raising,” said Laura Hollander. “They needed to raise money for the school and this whole thing was conceived with that purpose in mind. But when we left the reception and saw the children lining up for the second performance I took the time to tell them how fabulous they were.”
“The pride and self-esteem of these children for having done this wonderful show and getting the applause and approval of the community was unbelievable,” said Hollander. “This started as a fundraiser, but what this became was so much more. The contribution to the children of this island who now have hopes and dreams of becoming something — it just blew my mind.”
Everything from the music to the singing, to the puppets and narration made “Dream, Wish, Believe,” truly something special.
“I don’t want to gild the lily, but if I could keep a log of the feedback that I’ve gotten, it is virtually overwhelming,” said Ronnie Lee, SJSA board of directors vice president, who also hosted the Broadway actors at his home. “Just this morning someone stopped me and said the show brought tears to their eyes and how the two shows and the dine-around really brought the whole community together.”
GBS students donned fish hats while singing about the pleasures of living under the waves as part of “Dream, Wish, Believe.”
While unifying the community, “Dream, Wish, Believe” was also the first time fourth graders from Julius E. Sprauve School, Gifft Hill School, Guy Benjamin School and St. John School of the Arts, all collaborated on a project, instead of operating in competition with each other.
“I believe the most important aspect of ‘Dream, Wish, Believe’ was to bring the children and schools together for one united effort,” said SJSA director Jan Kinder. “Through the fantasy and magic of theatre, the children delivered a powerful message for all.”
The message of dreaming and believing in the opportunity to make those dream come true, made quite an impression on the audience, explained SJSA assistant director Kim Wild.
“My favorite part was seeing the smiles coming out of the ‘theatre’ after the performance,” said Wild. “They gave me chills. Comments made to me during the reception were invaluable.”
“Some people said they cried, others that they laughed, and that is what a theatrical experience is all about,” Wild said. “Theater should make you think; it should make you wonder; it should touch your heart in a way that you’ve never felt before. The theatre makes us human on a different level.”
Students from GBS, JESS and SJSA work together to show off their skills during the show.
Many in the audience were also amazed at what the students were capable of accomplishing in such a short amount of time, Kinder added.
“This experience also changed the lives of all who were involved, including the audience,” said Kinder. “At times we were teary eyed and then filled with laughter or in awe of the children’s abilities and talents.”
And it wasn’t just the audience who was transformed through “Dream, Wish, Believe.”
“The children captured our hearts and each one became important to us,” the Broadway actors wrote in an email to Kinder. “We fell in love with the community of St John — everyone was gracious, kind, supportive and embraced our idea to ‘Dream, Wish, Believe.’ We will cherish the memories forever.”
While cherishing the memories from the show, the actors have also agreed to come back next year as “Broadway Returns to St. John,” explained Lee.
“I still have to speak to the administrative heads of the schools,” said Lee. “But the actor told me they are prepared to come back for three weeks next year if the administrators can make the time available to them.”
The promise of another stunning performance next year — and the chance for students to challenge themselves and work with professional Broadway actors — is more than exciting, explained Wild.
“The program itself was an amazing experience for everyone involved,” Wild said. “We need more of this.”
Anyone who missed the two performances of “Dream, Wish, Believe,” should plan to attend a future screening of the original musical at SJSA. School officials will announce a date for the screening soon.