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Draper Journal

Summit Academy students dive into musical theater, craft their own jukebox musicals

Jun 03, 2024 02:59PM ● By Julie Slama

One of several jukebox musicals, “Insanity” was student-written and performed at Summit Academy. (Aimee Rohling/Summit Academy)

In Summit Academy’s middle school musical theater class, it’s more than studying about musical theater or performing in a show. 

This spring, 16 students got together in small groups to write their own jukebox musicals.

“The best way to fully understand musical theater is to immerse yourself in it,” theater teacher Aimee Rohling said. “These students brainstormed ideas, created characters and a storyline, tested out the script and made edits. They learned that the songs tell the stories. They added movement, costumes and performed them.”

Using already published and well-known songs, the students had three weeks to create their musicals based on their version of those lyrics.

Those jukebox musicals varied. In “Beat It,” a girl tried out for a boys’ high school football team while in “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” a mother had to deal with a group of naughty kids. Another piece, “Insanity” is villainous and has a girl tied up.

“I encouraged them to create their characters, add their voices and not be afraid to sing it out. They’ve developed some incredible skills,” she said.

Sixth-grader Laynie Bell said in the piece, “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” it’s bedlam.

“The scene where the mom is trying to get the kids up and get them ready for school is just crazy,” she said. “It’s complete chaos, but a lot of fun.”

Her classmate, Shelby Reardon is part of the “Beat It” cast.

“She actually makes it on the team and beats them, which casts a roller coaster of emotions,” she said. “It’s kind of cheesy, but it makes some good points and it’s fun.”

The girls said that through the experience, they not only learned more about theater, but they learned teamwork.

“Everybody can contribute and everybody has a part,” Shelby said.

Laynie said that each part contributes to the whole show.

“Someone may have an idea, then another can build upon that and it can just take off, but we can all be a part of it and share in the writing, the acting, the singing and making sure it’s the show we want to share,” she said. “It’s been a good hands-on learning experience.” λ