By David Tom, Navy Region Hawaii School Liaison Officer
“A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew” describes “Broadway” at Hickam Elementary School (HES).
Under the direction of music teacher Tracie Higashi, 69 HES Kani Le’a students from grades three to six performed the Disney Kids Aladdin May 1 and 2, in the school’s Quonset Hut Theater.
Kani Le’a means “joyful singing” in Hawaiian, and Higashi said that for her and everyone involved, the HES annual productions are full of joyful singing and a labor of love.
Kanile’a is a voluntary after-school activity started by Higashi, who has taught at HES for more than 20 years.
“The students work really hard. They start vocalizing early in the school year and then experience acting in different roles. By December, they audition for their preferred parts. Once selected, the students take home their scripts over the winter break and start rehearsals in January. Their dedication is absolutely fantastic,” Higashi said.
“I joined Kanile’a because I have a passion to sing and act. It was a lot of work, but once we were on stage with our costumes and makeup, it was an amazing, beautiful play,” said fifth grader Hannah Bradshaw, who played Princess Jasmine.
Haley Moree, another fifth grader, wanted to play Aladdin because “the character was really inspiring and always tried to do his best. Once we learned our parts and put it together without stopping, it was incredible.”
“What a wonderful production the kids put on. This is the second year our son has been in a musical play, and it is such a joy to watch. All these young performers will forever remember this play and how much fun they had creating it. We look forward to next year’s performance,” said Tamsen Velazquez, an HES parent.
“I had been in chorus last year and really wanted to try for the role of Iago, who is a very annoying character in Aladdin. I like portraying characters and finding out how to be them,” said Madelyn Grauer, a sixth grader.
“Preparation was stressful but once we got it down, you just go with the flow. I probably can do it in my sleep,” explained Jessica Jones, a sixth grader, who played a lamp vendor.
Higashi had lots of help from many people including retired HES teacher, Janet Muranaka, who has helped with the last nine productions since retiring, and HES teachers, parents and staff who dedicated many after school hours to help make the production a success.
“To be a part of the children’s education and to watch them explore, learn, and grow is a joy to see. Hopefully one day, fine arts will be seen as core to who we are,” Higashi said.
Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Little did Plato know more than 2,000 years ago that his words, would come true for the entire production cast of Aladdin and the audience at HES “Broadway” Quonset Hut.