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Full Cast Of James And The Giant Peach Stand On Stage

2022 Spring Musical Recap: Benefits of Music and Theater in Education

What happens when a young boy finds solace in a peach pit, only to find friends inside that take him on a journey to another world?

While it seems like a goofy storyline, it gave Saint John’s Prep students a chance to remove themselves from the seriousness and challenges of the past few years and to focus on something they love: the fine arts.

James and the Giant Peach production

Our production of James and the Giant Peach featured 18 students in acting roles, 14 students in stage crew roles, and 23 students performing in the orchestra.

“We chose James and the Giant Peach because a lot of our consistent actors were seniors who graduated last year,” said Jeff Engholm, Music Teacher at Saint John’s Prep. “This production has a smaller cast list, plus it adds a lighthearted storyline to our lineup of recent musical selections, some of which had more serious undertones.”

In the past, our theater department has put on musical productions of:

  • Into the Woods
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Mary Poppins
  • Les Misérables

And for Spring 2023, the Saint John’s Prep theater program will put on a production of Footloose.

An opportunity to learn from professionals

A little-known fact about Saint John Prep’s theater department is that our production staff is made up of many working professionals. A few weeks before the opening performance, professionals in sound, lighting, costuming, and music join the students to support the production and encourage students in their roles.

Through this arrangement, professional musicians play in the pit during each performance and are a wonderful resource for our orchestra students to ask questions of and learn from. Tech professionals help train up our students in charge of lighting and sound, and then hand students the reins for the live performances. And every participant benefits from having Jeff Engholm; Brandon Anderson, Theater Director; and Brother Paul-Vincent Niebauer, OSB, Theater Director leading music and production, as all of them have a professional background in the performing arts.

Students Work Backtage Production In Front Of Computers

While the students host several run-through performances at Saint John’s Prep for the nearby elementary schools, each of the larger performances takes place at the Paramount Center for the Arts. This not only gives Saint John’s Prep the space needed to accommodate the large number of attendees but also adds a level of professionalism that encourages students to do their best. It’s also an opportunity to go out into our community and showcase talented students.

Making the fine arts accessible to all grades

Our annual Fall Play and Spring Musical productions are open to middle and upper school students. Participating students meet every day after school to learn their lines, get off book, and begin to focus on choreography, blocking, and practicing with props. For students in the pit, music rehearsals start a few weeks after the actors begin learning their parts.

In the past, some students have participated both in acting and in the pit. “We like to help students get involved in all areas of the play that interest them,” said Engholm. “If we can give them the chance to participate in both the acting side and the music side, then we do what we can to make that possible.”

Student On Costume Plays With Orchestra

While Saint John’s Prep encourages students of all abilities and skills to try out for the Spring Musical, some performances have limited roles to fill.

“Some years we can’t take every student who is interested in being part of the production in an acting role,” said Engholm. “We encourage those students to enroll in our acting or creative theater courses. For musicians, we have a jazz program, chamber choir, and traditional band/orchestra and choir options for them to develop their skills. Nearly every time, they come back having practiced and are able to perform in the next production.”

Encouraging a future in the arts

At Saint John’s Prep, we don’t just believe that the fine arts are important — we consider them essential to a well-rounded education. As a result, we have an arts requirement in order for our students to graduate. This means that students take a minimum of one semester of a fine art each year in upper school, though many of our students choose to enroll in more.

Every fine arts course that a student successfully completes contributes toward a fine arts distinction upon graduation. Students can also earn credits toward this distinction through opportunities outside of the classroom, including experiential learning and internships.

Because of our unique focus on the arts, many of our students have gone on to pursue theater after they graduate. In fact, we have several alumni studying musical theater, and one alumna is working in New York starring in off-Broadway shows.

See Saint John’s Prep for yourself

Sometimes the best way to find out if Saint John’s Prep is a good fit for your family is to see our campus in person. Schedule a visit and see all that awaits you and your student.