Goodman Theatre has a long history working with young students in Chicago, but it’s not every day that 200 students get to make their “Goodman debut” on the Albert stage surrounded by friends and family. Such was the scene on May 21 as the Goodman presented the Disney Musicals in Schools Student Share Celebration, the culmination of the first year of the Goodman’s partnership with Disney Theatrical Group.

Last spring, Disney awarded the Goodman $100,000 to bring Disney Musical in Schools, created to provide access to sustainable musical theater programs to under-resourced elementary schools, to Chicago. Since the program’s creation, over 21,000 students have participated in the program in 18 cities in the U.S. and abroad.

Five Chicago-area public schools were selected as inaugural participants in the program, including Irma C. Ruiz Elementary (Pilsen), Gillespie Elementary (Chatham), Providence Englewood Charter School (Englewood), Wolfgang A. Mozart Elementary (Logan Square/Hermosa) and William G. Hibbard Elementary (Albany Park). Teaching teams from each school began the musical creation process in December, meeting with Goodman teaching artists and selecting their school’s first Disney KIDS Musical, 30-minute versions of popular Disney titles including The Lion King, Aladdin and 101 Dalmatians.

By January, each school had begun the 17-week rehearsal process, introducing students to musical theater. Each school was provided scripts and production materials via Disney ShowKits, as well as weekly visits from Goodman teaching artists. The teaching artists included Goodman Education and Engagement Associate Brandi Lee; Breon Arzell, Darien Tene and Paul Whitehouse, who also work with high school students during the Goodman’s summer programs; and newcomers Tommy Rivera Vega, Joelle Lamarre and Ana Velazquez. These teaching artists assisted in creating the final performance, but also trained the school’s teachers and administrators to become directors, choreographers and stage managers, preparing them for upcoming years in the program.

Before bringing their students work to the Goodman stage, each group performed their musicals for their classmates in school, surrounded by parents and community members. At the Goodman, in a packed Albert Theatre, all five schools came together to showcase a song from their musical, and perform “It Starts With a Dream,” an original song by eight-time Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, written specifically for students of the Disney Musicals in Schools program.

Energized by the success of this first Student Share Celebration, the Goodman will continue its relationships with Ruiz, Mozart, Gillespie, Hibbard and Providence Englewood next year. In addition, Goodman Theatre will add five more schools to the Disney Musicals in Schools program for the 2018/2019 Season.

Do you know a school that needs arts resources? Goodman Education & Engagement will accept applications for the program’s second season beginning in late September. Elementary schools in Chicago, Cicero, Berwyn and Calumet that are have Title One eligibility or a 75% or higher free or reduced lunch rate are eligible for the free program. E-mail DMIS@GoodmanTheatre.org for more information.