Creekside kids get red-carpet treatment

Published 10:32 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Daddy Warbucks, played by Elijah Jones, consults his assistant concerning the character of Annie played by Nia Fenner.

By Heather McGinley
Staff Writer

It’s a “hard knock life” for Creekside Elementary School students. On Tuesday, Creekside Elementary students and a few staff members performed their rendition of the popular Broadway musical “Annie.” And they did it in style.

Creekside students began the evening with a formal red carpet event — complete with spotlights, Tiffany blue boxes, Grammy statues, flash photography, interviews, protective public chains, and a production backdrop. The event was so elaborate that it made Daddy Warbucks, played by fourth-grader Elijah Jones, feel like a “superstar.”

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“I thought it was very nice to be on the red carpet, because I’ve never been on a red carpet,” Elijah said. “I felt like a superstar that day. My favorite part of the red carpet event was when I got to speak into the microphone, I think, because I never got to speak into a microphone in front of people who were cheering for me.”

“I felt like Angelina Jolie,” said fourth-grader Nia Fenner, one of the students who shared the role of Annie.

The feelings that Jones and Fenner expressed were kind of the point of the event, according to Jamel Gibson, Creekside’s music teacher and the director of “Annie Jr.” “It’s an esteem booster,” he said. “It is something they will never forget.”

Creekside’s red carpet event was followed up by the production itself, which included multiple backdrops and props that were painstakingly constructed by parent volunteers and students, a VIP section, a VIP refreshment table, extensive lighting and more.

Gibson said he had never before had so many teachers, parents, staff members and students willing to volunteer. Gibson’s volunteers were so enthusiastic that he was able to pull off the entire production at no cost with the exception of the kit and license to perform the play.

Parents and Creekside staff, for example, designed the backdrops and props, and The Norfolk Little Theater and Regent University loaned the school lights for the production.

According to Gibson, one of the most enthusiastic volunteers was Leanne Folsom, who designed and created the cars, taxicabs, and limousine for the New York City street scene.

Folsom decorated Gibson’s classroom, created backdrops, designed a chandelier with working lights, and loaned Gibson inflatable Grammies that were used on the red carpet. Folsom took such an active role that Gibson said, “I deemed her mother of the Music Department.”

Gibson chose “Annie Jr.” because “musicals in schools are typically girl heavy. I had to do ‘Annie’ because there are a lot of orphan girls.”

Gibson said he showed both versions of Annie to his students, and they loved it.

“I wanted to get them to understand and relate to a child that doesn’t have and to get them to be appreciative of what they do have,” he said, “It’s hard to get that concept. Be grateful for what you have. Some people don’t have anything.”

Gibson decided that a Broadway production was a good fit for his students, and he didn’t turn away any of the students who auditioned for the show.

“I wanted to do something over the top for the elementary school,” he said. “I really wanted them to have that experience and it be true to form. I loved to see their faces light up.”