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Local elementary school receives opportunity to stage a Disney musical

Through its five-year partnership with Wharton Center, six schools were selected to participate in a 17-week musical theater residency.

This program is a remarkable outreach initiative that develops sustainable musical theater programs in under-resourced, public elementary schools by staging their first school musical.

Six eligible schools were carefully selected for the 2019-2020 program. Each of the elementary schools chosen will participate in a 17-week musical theater residency, with the school team partnering with Wharton Center’s teaching artist.

Throughout the rehearsal process, the school team will learn to direct, choreograph and musically direct their cast third, fourth and fifth grade students in their first school musical. By the end of the residency, the school team will have what it takes to support a sustainable theater program for years to come.

Of the six Michigan schools chosen this year, one is Gardner International Magnet school in Lansing. 

This program will culminate in a production of a Disney KIDS Musical of the school’s choice. Disney KIDS musicals, created in partnership with Musical Theater International, are 30-minute shows adapted from Disney’s classic stories.

This year, the schools selected “The Lion King KIDS,” “Aladdin KIDS” and “Frozen KIDS.” On June 2, the annual Wharton Center Student Share Celebration will feature each cast performing their work in front of fellow students, family members and friends on the Cobb Great Hall stage.

Disney Musicals in Schools was launched in response to Disney Theatrical Group’s concern that low-income students in urban public schools were not afforded equitable access to the arts.

After successfully offering the program in New York City schools, Disney Theatrical Group began partnering with organizations in other communities around the United States. Wharton Center is the only facility in Michigan to partner with Disney to bring musicals to bring musicals to under-resourced Michigan elementary schools.

To date, Wharton Center has helped over 550 students participate in their first school musical, teaching valuable skills such as creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, self-confidence and discipline in the students. 

To be chosen for the Disney Musicals in Schools program, an elementary school must be designated Title I, have at least 50% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and/or show lack of arts opportunities due to geographic location and be roughly 90 minutes away or less from Lansing. The school must have staff dedicated to building a sustainable program.

For more information about program benefits and requirements, please visit and

By: Bob Hoffman