SUMMIT, NJ - Washington Elementary School students, members of the school's upcoming fourth and fifth grade production of "The Battle of Beacon Hill," received a visit from the cast of Summit High School’s recently-concluded, "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," and were treated to a number performed from the Sondheim classic, and received valuable feedback on their own opening and closing numbers.   

“So many of our talented high schoolers developed their love of theater on our elementary school stages,” said Summit High School Choreographer Kelly Mott-Sacks.  “In fact, a huge number of the 'Sweeney' cast began right here at Washington School.  They were thrilled to come back and work with the elementary school kids and answer their questions.”

The high schoolers performed “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” which is the show opener.  Dressed in street clothes and improvising for some missing cast members, the abbreviated ensemble still dazzled the younger students, who were filled with questions about auditioning, rehearsals, and technical aspects of the musical.  
While several elementary schoolers had seen "Sweeney Todd," many had not.  When asked what the show was about, the high school students spoke delicately, focusing on the general themes of revenge and love, as the graphic nature of the show may have been alarming.  Still, those who attended the production were fascinated with the mechanics of Sweeney’s chair, which released Sweeney’s victims into a fiery basement, and the high schoolers were thrilled to explain how it worked. 

After the high schoolers sang, the fourth and fifth graders took the stage and performed their opening skit, opening number, and closing number.  During the critique session, the high schoolers shared the importance of “cheating out" -- not turning their backs to the audience, speaking loudly and slowly, and smiling.

The event was part of the Educational Impact program, which connects the musical to the school district's curriculum, using the production as a teaching tool for the greater student body and local community.  Other parts of this effort included a district-wide food drive to spread awareness about hunger in Summit and Union County, drawing parallels to the hunger in London in mid-19th Century London.  
Food was collected during the weeks leading up to the show throughout Summit by students and various community organizations, and was collected at each Sweeney performance, and then donated to the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Summit.  The "Sweeney Todd" cast also held a workshop for elementary school students, recreating a musical from auditions to learning the dance routine and performing.

“A Summit High School production is about so much more than the performance,” said Mott-Sacks.  “Our goal is to engage the entire community.”
"The Battle of Beacon Hill,” is set for March 20, at 7 p.m., at Washington Elementary.