One hundred thirty three Roosevelt Elementary schoolchildren, their families and many school staff members presented “The Great American Songbook” for the annual, themed Roosevelt Variety Show. Directed by Darryl Johnson and produced by Lucy Green, the show was staffed by parent volunteers and presented Opening and Finale medleys along with 43 acts.
Held February 27, 28 and March 1, the Variety Show team began planning in August. For the past five months, the acts have held regular weekly rehearsals, all culminating in three days of performances.
The Variety Show was started by the Roosevelt PTA in 1984 when Paula Jetton was PTA President. Jetton came to watch the show this year and met with Johnson, Green and current PTA President Gema Sanchez.
“We chose to call it a Variety Show so that all kinds of acts could participate and not be judged as in a Talent Show,” said Jetton. “The acts consisted of singing, dancing, gymnastics, comedy sketches and music instrumentals. The show I saw last weekend at Roosevelt was very much in line with the vision of the Roosevelt PTA of 1984.”
“She was basically amazed at all the lights and fancy tech stuff,” Green said, “but happy to see it was fundamentally the same… all about the kids.”
“Roosevelt Elementary is known for our high quality Variety Show,” commented school Principal Dr. Jennifer Meglemre. “The students spend months working on their acts with voice coaches and choreographers and make the commitment to practice weekly beginning in October.”
“Parents lend their time and talents in all the creative areas, as well as tech, lighting and sound,” she added. “We could not do this show without the commitment and dedication of so many parents and students.”
Professional lighting and sound equipment is brought in and parents, many of whom work at nearby film and media production or entertainment-related businesses, step up to run cameras, lights and decorate the stage. They also coach vocals and choreograph numbers, all under the direction of Johnson.
“This year, I sang a solo in the faculty act and could not believe how nervous I was,” Meglemre said. “I kept forgetting the words during rehearsal. It made me really appreciate the courage and practice it takes for these kids to go on stage and perform as well as they do.”
From Mrs. Wills’ Kindergarten class to the several fifth graders who have appeared in the show for all of their six years at the school, there’s room for any child to participate, no matter their experience.
Auditions are held for solos, but any groups are welcomed and all acts are provided vocal coaching and stage direction as needed. Even children who want to join in but don’t know what they want to do or even if they can sing or dance are placed with a group and included.
Girl Scout Troop #1391 has appeared for five years straight in group numbers, including the ruffled shirt and headband-inspired “Let’s Go Crazy” and “One,” a chorus girl-Rockettes number. This year, the girls gave a nod to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.”
Approximately 30 American composers and songwriters from the 1920s through 1950s were represented in the various performances, including George and Ira Gershwin, Henry Mancini, Cole Porter, Aaron Copland, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Chuck Berry, Gene Autry, Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber and more.
Johnson has directed the large production for the past seven years, each year choosing a theme or focus for the show. Johnson works as a film editor and has produced and directed several productions at theaters around Los Angeles.
“The Variety Show at Roosevelt is a pretty polished affair which gives the children a theater experience that they may otherwise know nothing about,” commented Green, a parent volunteer with a background in film production. “I think it can open their eyes to a whole other avenue for potential extra curricular activities, study or employment.”
“I love seeing the friendships, fun, responsibility and self confidence that grows in each child throughout the process,” she added.