Disney Musicals in Schools puts students in the spotlight on the historic Pantages Theatre stage

May 11, 2023

Hennepin Theatre Trust collaborates with Disney as part of a program that brings musical theater to over 60,000 students in under-resourced schools nationwide

MINNEAPOLIS (May 11, 2023) — On May 16, more than a hundred elementary students from the Twin Cities will have the extraordinary opportunity to sing and dance on the historic Pantages Theatre stage thanks to a grant awarded to Hennepin Theatre Trust by Disney.

The grant from Disney enables Hennepin Theatre Trust to offer the Disney Musicals in Schools program to elementary schools across Minnesota. The program is designed to create sustainable theater programming in elementary schools. Through the program, participating schools produce a Disney KIDS musical in their school community and join in a culminating performance at Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Pantages Theatre (710 Hennepin Ave). The participating schools are Level Up Academy (White Bear Lake), Peter Hobart Elementary (St. Louis Park), Pillsbury Community School (Minneapolis) and Susan Lindgren Elementary (St. Louis Park).

“We are thrilled to work with Disney to bring the magic of the performing arts to public elementary schools across the metro, and we can’t wait for these bright young students to perform at the historic Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis,” said Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust. “ Hennepin Theatre Trust is proud to provide a stage—literally and metaphorically—for students as they grow their interest in the arts, because we know an active arts education enriches every area of a student’s development. Disney Music in Schools is part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Spotlight Education program which provides performing arts education in more than 100 schools across the state.”

PNC Bank is a major sponsor of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Disney Musicals in Schools and Spotlight Education programs. Their support enables the Trust to supplement arts curricula across the state with quality theater education.

“As a national main street bank, PNC believes in the transformative power of the arts and are committed to supporting organizations like Hennepin Theatre Trust that enrich the communities we serve,” said Kate Kelly, PNC regional president of Minnesota. “We recognize the critical role that arts education plays in building confidence, critical thinking skills, creativity, empathy and a sense of community, and we are proud to support programs that provide students with equitable access to the arts.”

The selected schools participated in a 17-week musical theater residency, led by a team of teaching artists trained by Hennepin Theatre Trust and Disney Theatrical Group, at no cost. Each school received performance rights, educational support materials and guidance from the teaching artists. The program featured a professional development focus, through which participating teachers partnered with Trust teaching artists to learn how to produce, direct, choreograph and music direct, culminating in their first 30-minute Disney KIDS musical at their school. Level Up Academy, Peter Hobart Elementary and Pillsbury Community School chose The Jungle Book KIDS as their Disney KIDS musical, and Susan Lindgren Elementary will be performing Frozen KIDS. The Student Share Celebration on May 16 is the culmination of this year’s program. The event will be hosted by Kelli Foster Warder, director, choreographer and leader in the Twin Cities theater industry who was instrumental in enrolling Hennepin Theatre Trust in the Disney Musicals in Schools program.

 Disney Musicals in Schools was launched in 2010 in response to Disney Theatrical Group’s mission to provide equitable access to the arts to public elementary students across the nation. After successfully launching the program in New York City schools, Disney Theatrical Group began collaborating with organizations across the United States.

Disney KIDS musicals, created in partnership with Music Theater International (MTI), are 30-minute musicals designed for elementary school performers and have been adapted from the classic Disney films 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, Frozen, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, The Lion King and Winnie the Pooh.

Disney Musicals in Schools runs in conjunction with Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Spotlight Education initiative, a program that is an essential part of arts education in schools across Minnesota. Annually, it helps nearly 8,000 students in 100 schools build confidence, critical thinking, empathy, a sense of community, knowledge and appreciation of theatre through programming that supplements and enhances arts curricula, increasing equitable access to quality theater education.

Disney Theatrical Group (DTG) operates under the direction of Thomas Schumacher and is among the world’s most successful commercial theatre producers, bringing live entertainment events to a global audience of more than 20 million people a year in more than 50 countries.  Under the Disney Theatrical Group banner, the group produces and licenses Broadway productions around the world, including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida, TARZAN®, Mary Poppins, a co-production with Cameron Mackintosh, The Little Mermaid, Peter and the Starcatcher, Newsies, Aladdin, and Frozen.  Other successful stage musical ventures have included the Olivier-nominated London hit Shakespeare in Love, stage productions of Disney’s High School Musical, Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame in Berlin, and King David in concert.  DTG has collaborated with the nation’s preeminent theatres to develop new stage titles including The Jungle Book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Freaky Friday and Hercules.  As a part of the recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox, DTP also heads the Buena Vista Theatrical banner which licenses Fox titles for stage adaptations including Anastasia; Moulin Rouge! The Musical; Mrs. Doubtfire and The Devil Wears Prada.

Disney Theatrical Group also delivers live shows globally through its license to Feld Entertainment, producer of Disney on Ice and Marvel Universe Live!, bringing beloved Disney stories and characters annually to over 12 million guests in nearly 50 countries worldwide.  In addition, DTG licenses musical titles for local, school and community theatre productions through Music Theatre International, including The Lion King Experience, a unique holistic arts education program wherein accredited elementary and middle schools produce condensed, age-appropriate JR. and KIDS adaptations of The Lion King.

Music Theatre International (MTI) is one of the world’s leading theatrical licensing agencies, granting theatres from around the world the rights to perform the greatest selection of musicals from Broadway and beyond. Founded in 1952 by composer Frank Loesser, and orchestrator Don Walker, MTI is a driving force in advancing musical theatre as a vibrant and engaging art form.

MTI works directly with the composers, lyricists and book writers of these musicals to provide official scripts, musical materials and dynamic theatrical resources to over 70,000 professional, community and school theatres in the US and in over 60 countries worldwide.

MTI is particularly dedicated to educational theatre, and has created special collections to meet the needs of various types of performers and audiences. MTI’s Broadway Junior™ shows are 30- and 60-minute musicals for performance by elementary and middle school-aged performers, while MTI’s School Editions are musicals annotated for performance by high school students.

MTI maintains its global headquarters in New York City (mtishows.com), with additional offices in London (MTI Europe: mtishows.co.ukmtishows.eu), and Melbourne (MTI Australia: mtishows.com.au).

PNC Bank, National Association, is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC). PNC is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States, organized around its customers and communities for strong relationships and local delivery of retail and business banking including a full range of lending products; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management. For information about PNC, visit www.pnc.com.

Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.

This activity is made possible by voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.