Thursday, March 26, 2009 | midnight
The greatest show on earth is coming to Summerlin — set to music and starring students.
To prepare for their newest musical theater production, cast members of "Barnum" learned how to juggle, walk on stilts and ride a unicycle. The Meadows School musical is based on the life of American showman P.T. Barnum.
"It's very intense," said Timothy Burris, theater teacher at The Meadows School and "Barnum" director. "It's not as stylized as Cirque (du Soleil) because we wanted to capture that classic circus feel."
"Barnum" is a part of the school's 25th anniversary celebration. It opens 6:30 p.m. Thursday and culminates with a fundraiser on Friday night and a Saturday matinee.
The two-hour musical has a cast of 26, with 20 student technicians and a band accompaniment. The show includes aerial routines and flag twirling. Three students are operating the giant elephant puppet Jumbo, Barnum's celebrated African elephant.
Burris said it was difficult to teach the students the dances, songs and circus routines, while they were also memorizing lines and staging.
"Although the circus skills are relatively safe, you still worry about someone falling off the unicycle," he said.
But, he said, "the kids always rise to the occasion."
Students will perform musical highlights from the play at the Friday fundraising reception, which seats 300. Tickets are $50. Wild Truffles is catering the event. The 2 p.m. Saturday matinee follows the Arts Day celebration at the school. Tickets for "Barnum" on Thursday and Saturday are $7.
Burris said the musical challenges the limitations society often tries to place on people. Barnum followed a dream and built up something bigger than himself, which is what students are challenged to do.
The musical director is Barbara Buer. Choreography is by E'Dawn Severance. The production coordinator is Jessica Gaylor and the band director is Jenny Tolen.
June Eshelman, the school's coordinator for performing and visual arts, said the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday event will be a celebration of the arts with gallery works from students and alumni. About 400 people are expected to attend the event.
There will be a variety of art and musical demonstrations in the Wanda Lamb Peccole Center for the Arts and inside the lower school commons.
"We're trying to share with the community what we're doing to support the arts," she said.
The Meadows School, 8601 Scholar Lane, is a private college-prep school with about 910 students. For information on the events contact Abby Geyer at 797-5853 or visit www.themeadowsschool.org.