Last week, CFK joined our favorite Brooklyn students on a field trip to Freckleface Strawberry, the Broadway musical based on Julianne Moore’s bestselling children’s book. The timing for our little outing couldn’t have been better. Last week also marked Speaker Christine Quinn and Chancellor Cathy Black’s new initiative, “Respect for All Week,” five days of awareness-raising events and workshops designed to promote respect for diversity and inclusive learning environments throughout the city. For those of you not already in possession of the book, Freckleface Strawberry follows the trials and tribulations of a little girl with red hair as she attempts to ditch the dreaded freckles. With the help of a quirky and lovable cast of students and teachers, Freckleface learns to accept herself, freckles and all.
Also, a huge round of a applause for Caitlin Smith, the next big thing on Broadway and our very talented CFK office manager, for today’s reportage.
Lights down, the rustle of 100 light-up shoes has ceased. The squirming of excited elementary school kids happy to be having recess in an unfamiliar but grandiose atmosphere begins to settle. Warm stage lights reveal a fluorescent and inviting set. Many kids, attending their first Broadway show, release “Wows” and talk to and about the actors in front of them. Teachers, equally enraptured administer quick “Shh’s.” All is now quiet, and catchy music, ranging in style from Kurt Weill to Lady Gaga, fills the air. Which did the kids prefer most? “The part where she made fun of Lady Gaga!” one exuberant boy tells me after the show, before mimicking dance moves he saw the hour before. Not everyone loved the slow ballads and more tender moments of the show, but they all sat thoroughly attentive for 75 minutes (a tall order for most adults these days).
For most of our 100 kids from 243, this is their first Broadway musical. The hope of our field trip today is that it won’t be their last. Who can tell when a child might be “bitten by the theatre bug”? A super upbeat show, plenty of audience interaction, a cast only 10- 15 years their senior, giant bouncy balls, jump roping on stage, and impressive vocals that would shame any American Idol contestant should do the trick. Some children will relate to the main character of the show, a redheaded girl so afraid of being different that she spends half the show wearing a ski mask to cover up her freckles. But they will all hopefully absorb the heartfelt message: “Who cares if you have a lot of freckles, if you’ve got a lot of friends?”
In a talk-back with the students after the show, the producer, Rose Caiola, tells the children why she has worked so hard to bring this show to New York for children like our 243 students to see: “I like the message, especially these days, I think it is important to celebrate diversity and love yourself.” Clearly, all of Rose’s hard work payed off when one little girl asked Freckleface Strawberry, “Why did you want to hide your freckle face and your personality? They looked so good on you.”