New theater, Discovery Green offer HSPVA students more exposure
Houston Chronicle. Allison Bagley. October 16, 2019.

At a high school musical this weekend, the theatrics are Broadway-level.

Students in the roles of Mary Poppins and Bert will “fly” suspended above the stage at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's “Mary Poppins” in the new on-campus theater.

The performance is the largest production in the HISD magnet school’s history, with 55 students performing from the orchestra pit, 45 kids on stage and 50 more behind the scenes contributing to set design, lighting and costumes.

“A big production of a musical is the one art form that incorporates every one of the things that we teach on our campus,” says the school’s magnet coordinator, Jonathan Klein, who is producing the show. HSPVA’s disciplines are dance, creative writing, theater, visual arts, vocal music and instrumental music.

Many HSPVA students want to pursue the arts in college and then as a career, he says, and productions like this offer real-world experience.

“Their passion is performing,” Klein says, and “a Broadway musical might be the most American art form of all.”

The production takes place in the school’s new theater, which holds about 800 people. For the flying scene, the school contracted the same special effects company that works with Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS).

Paul Jarosz’s son Luca Jarosz, 16, is a junior playing the role of Bert. Jarosz says Luca was initially a little apprehensive to fly, but he got the hang of it in rehearsals, which started this summer.

In addition to joining his friend Mary Poppins in the air, Bert is part of the number “Step In Time.” In his role, Luca dances with an ensemble of chimney sweepers, who hoist him up so that he can walk up the side of the stage and flip off while continuing to sing.

“It’s both nerve racking as a parent” to watch and a proud moment to see, Jarosz says.

Jarosz’s daughter graduated from HSPVA. When family members have come to town for stage productions, they’re surprised to learn the show is put on entirely by students, including the orchestral accompaniment, he says.

“The production value is just fantastic,” Jarosz says, who adds the cast “takes a lot of pride in the quality of the work.”

Family-friendly stage performances allow local kids in the audience to learn that “if they’re interested in studying the arts, there’s a one-of-a kind school that can offer that,” Klein says.

HSPVA graduates have gone on to perform on Broadway and at the Tony awards. Opera singer Camille Zamora is returning to campus this year to lead a master class for vocal students.

HSPVA’s new downtown location near the Theater District gives students frequent exposure to the arts and the chance to perform with major arts organizations.

They’re also a short walk from Discovery Green, where students are currently putting on free weekly concerts.

The On Deck! series features performances including jazz and mariachi.

Klein says the series draws professionals who walk from nearby buildings to have lunch, in addition to those that come from conventions at George R. Brown and school groups who attend as a field trip.

“To have an opportunity to perform for the public and to add enjoyment to their lunch hour is not only a learning opportunity... but also fun for the kids,” Klein says.

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