The lip sync contest finale between the swamp people and the Lady of the Swamp and the now found tourist friend.

Once again, Roosevelt Elementary School staff created a magical and fun show for their students and shared the joy on the last day of school before winter break.

In its ninth year running (with two pandemic-era shows in video), this year’s production was back on the Roosevelt Bears stage (in the gym) in person. Set in Louisiana and called Secrets of the Swamp, the show was replete with swamp creatures, a jazzy second line band, dance numbers set to pop tunes, and even a high stakes lip sync contest at the end. The whole came together from a series of scenes, held together with vibrant visual and auditory elements. From the audience laughter and squeals of delight, it appears that there is nothing better than students watching their beloved teachers and school staff playing on stage in front of them.

Roosevelt teacher Robin Russell, along with teachers Andrea Dunkin and Jenny Schiffner, helped pull together and direct the show this past fall. Russell shared how it’s put together, starting with a big “reveal” of the name,  music and storyline in October. At that time, staff members choose the parts they want to play.

“At the reveal,” Russell says, “the plot is explained and the character list is presented. People sign up for whatever role they would like. We give each group their music and they come up with a dance.”

The rest happens with individual motivation and small group collaboration, learning dance steps, making costumes. There are lots of hours dedicated to the show in off hours at the school.

“It is up to each group to practice on their own whenever they can and design their costumes,” Russell continues.

“We have a walk through for an hour the first week in December and a dress rehearsal the week before the play. That’s it! The story is narrated and the participants act/dance it out!”

And there’s the magic in this show! Minimally produced, but worked on for hours with love, and then, in the end, maximally received with joy!

According to Russell, this production was the biggest year yet with 54 individual staff members participating, including most teachers and paraeducators playing characters; front office, lunchroom, recess and custodial staff taking on plum roles; and ultimately, the principal taking on a pivotal part.  As an example of the group buy-in and collaboration, the second line band was made up of the school psychologist, the school math specialist, a kindergarten teacher, a custodian, and the resource room paraeducator.

The whole school community supports the efforts to make it happen. And while it takes an enormous amount of time to pull it off, it is so worth it, according to Russell. She sums it up in two words: “Team effort!”

Every year this is a great gift the Roosevelt staff gives to their students: time spent together in joy and laughter.

To view more photos from the show, click on Secrets of the Swamp Flickr album online.

Plot of Secrets of the Swamp

The swamp used to be a peaceful, quiet place then the swamp people took over and the kind-hearted animals left. Those who stayed were cranky and ill-mannered. The swamp people took tourists and tried to turn them into swampers like themselves to keep the swamp swampy but the last person they took (Lady of the Swamp played by principal Aaron Darragh) would not turn mean. The swampers also took one of the friends during a trip she took with her friends to New Orleans but she wouldn’t turn mean either. So the Blue Heron arranged a battle between the swampers and the two tourists and whomever won would decide the future of the swamp. Naturally, the Lady of the Swamp (played by the principal) and the other tourist together won the battle of lip sync. Winning with a rousing rendition of Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro, at the end, all is left well in the swamp.


Previous Roosevelt staff productions included:

Year 1 – Nutcracker

Year 2 – Babes in Toyland

Year 3 – Willy Wonka and the Battle for Candyland

Year 4 – Kingdom Under the Sea

Year 5 – Jack Frost, the Snow Queen and the Wardrobe

Year 6 – Alice’s Adventure in the House of Wonder

Year 7 – The Masked Ball (COVID video)

Year 8 – Dance Revolution at the Pond (COVID video)

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