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Disney Musicals in Schools Theater Grant Opens “A Whole New World” for Newark Area Students

Disney Musicals in Schools Theater Grant Opens “A Whole New World” for Newark Area Students

(NEWARK, NJ) -- How do you get to NJPAC’s Prudential Hall stage?  Practice -- for exactly 17 weeks.

That was the amount of time blocked out by nearly 250 students in five Greater Newark elementary schools to “graduate” from the Disney Musicals in Schools program.  A rare opportunity, which brought the youngsters on stage to perform before an audience in the New Jersey Performing Art Center’s main concert hall, was put into motion last year by a $100,000 grant awarded to the Arts Center by Disney Theatrical Group.

The recent event was titled a Student Share Celebration, but wishes fulfilled was an evident theme, beginning with a pièce d’occasion by famed Disney songwriter Alan Menken, “It Starts with a Dream.” Belting out that opening number, dressed in colorful costumes of their own creation, were the ensemble casts of Branch Brook School, Luis Muñoz Marin School for Social Justice and Mount Vernon School, all in Newark, John Marshall School No. 20 in Elizabeth and Rosa Parks Community School in Orange, New Jersey.

Each of the public schools presented a leap-to-your-feet number from a Disney KIDS Musical – on this day, Aladdin and The Lion King reigned – while grown-ups beamed from their orchestra seats. The Disney grant provided for teaching artists to assist classroom instructors in producing the 30-minute musicals – presented for the school community – as well as such resources as performance rights, soundtracks and design guidelines, at no cost to schools. During the 17-week residency, students of various grade levels also collaborated behind the scenes on creative essentials like lobby displays and stage crew.

NJPAC is one of nine collaborators nationwide for Disney Musicals in Schools and the only one based in New Jersey.

NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber and Newark Schools Superintendent, Christopher Cerf and led rounds of applause for the kids and their teachers, while Emmy-winning Eyewitness News anchor and self-confessed theater geek Lori Stokes stepped up to host. (Disney is the owner of her network, ABC.) A cast member of Broadway’s The Lion King, Bonita J. Hamilton, spoke of her own experiences as an actor and the rewards of making lifelong friends of her onstage comrades.

Disney Musicals in Schools Theater Grant Opens “A Whole New World” for Newark Area Students

Photo #1: John Marshal No. 20 Students Performing 

Photo #2: Front Row (L-R): Timothy Maynes,  Disney Assistant, Education & Outreach; Lori Stokes, ABC-7 Eyewitness News Anchor; John Schreiber, NJPAC President and CEO; Bonita Hamilton, Ms. Hamilton plays Shenzi in Broadway's hit musical, The Lion King; Colleen McCormack, Disney Assistant Manager, Creative Development 

Back Row (L-R): Sarah Kenny, Manager, Disney Education & Outreach; Lauren Chapman, Disney Manager, Teaching & Learning and Resident Teaching Artist; Lisa Mitchell, Disney Senior Manager, Education & Outreach; David Schrader, Disney Executive Vice President 


Photo Credit: Norman DeShong



originally published: 2016-02-18 20:02:10

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Theatre Preview: June 2018

Theatre Preview: June 2018

A look at plays coming to stages around the Garden State. Remember to add your shows to the NJ Stage event calendar. Listings are always free and seen by thousands each week.

Theatre Preview: May 2018

Theatre Preview: May 2018

New Jersey Stage takes a look at shows coming to stages around the Garden State with our monthly theatre preview in NJ Stage Magazine.  Issue 46 also contains features on The Nerd at George Street Playhouse and Turning Off The Morning News at McCarter Theatre.  The magazine is available for free at and readable on any PC, tablet, or smartphone.

Turning off the  Morning News

Turning off the Morning News

The award-winning playwright and New Jersey native, Christopher Durang, is back with Turning Off The Morning News - his third World Premiere commission for McCarter Theatre in Princeton. It serves as a follow up to his Tony Award-winning play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and runs from May 4th through June 3rd.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018


Bishop Briggs @ Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

HAPPY TOGETHER TOUR @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

The Pierce Sessions @ Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church, Farmingdale - 7:30pm

AIMEE MANN @ White Eagle Hall, Jersey City - 8:00pm

HARRY CONNICK, JR. @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm

City In The Clouds @ The Stanhope House, Stanhope - 6:00pm


H.A.G.S. COMEDY SHOW @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

MIKE FINOIA, KEVIN FLYNN, KYLE GROOMS @ The Music Box @ Borgata Casino Hotel, Atlantic City - 9:00pm


ACTION POINT @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm

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