Monday, October 8, 2012

New musical for schools tackles bullying with songs and laughter

James Damore  and  Katie Rose Spencer, both Exeter High School students, are featured in "What's Your Favorite Color."

By Cheryl Thornburg

With bullying being a major issue in today’s society, parents and teachers are always looking for ways to deal with the problem.

Conrad Weiser graduate Landon Scott Heimbach, along with Ray Rhoads, a Reading High grad, and Amy Jenson, formerly of York County, has come up with a creative way to address the issue and get kids talking.

Last week I attended the premier performance of a new musical “What’s Your Favorite Color?” at Conrad Weiser East Elementary School in Wernersville. This Theatre for Young Audiences musical delivers an important anti-bullying message through songs and jokes that engage the students and keeps them involved through interaction with the actors.
There was lots of laughter and enthusiastic responses from the young crowd and the tunes are catchy.  You may find yourself singing along and humming them as you head home.
The cast is comprised of talented area high school students portraying younger children as they act out scenes of what happens in school and on the playground.  The story centers around School Spirit Day where kids are asked to wear their favorite color to school. Not surprisingly, most of the girls decide to wear pink and the boys, blue -- except for one boy, Arthur, who says his favorite color is pink. He is then taunted and ridiculed by both boys and girls.
Arthur is played by Exeter High School student James Damore whose vocal and comedic skills make Arthur likeable and relatable to the young audience.  As he is being bullied, his best friend, a girl named Indigo, stands up for him and the bullies back off.  Indigo is played by Exeter High School Student Katie Rose Spencer. The two shine in their duet “I Have A Friend.” Spencer also shows off her dynamic vocal skills in  “Liking Blues Blues.”
Bringing the bullies to life are Olivia Damore (Exeter High School), Kassandra Scheese (Exeter High School), Jake Hangen (Exeter High School) and Joshua Sell (Oley Valley High School). Their high-energy performances in such numbers as “Homework ” and “Playtime” keep the kids focused on the stage, which is major coup when you’ve got 500 kids sitting on the floor in a cafetorium.
The adult characters are all played by Maria Damore and Debbi Silas. Quick costume changes take them from teacher to parent and back again.  Both have great voices and even better over-the-top comedic skills that evoked lots of laughter from the young crowd.
What this new musical does is present a very serious topic in a form that is entertaining for students in elementary and middle schools, yet still delivers the underlying anti-bullying message. It provides a perfect jumping-off point for further discussion in the classroom or with parents.  It also offers suggestions for students on what to do if they are being bullied.
The production is directed by Heimbach with musical direction by Sarah Weiser McGrory , the music teacher at Conrad Weiser West Elementary School, and choreography by Debbi Silas.
Heimbach and Rhoads have been writing musicals for years. Jensen, a New Jersey music teacher, joined the team this year.  Heimbach and Jenson worked together through emails over a few  months to create the lyrics and then Rhoads wrote the musical score based on their lyrics.
The cast and creative team are eager to secure additional productions at other local school districts and venues. For more information and details on “What’s Your Favorite Color?,” email


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