'Peace & Love' shines out from Havlicek School show

BERWYN — The Berwyn auditorium is packed — it's standing room only. There's a din in the huge room, like a zillion bees buzzing. Kids squirm in their seats in anticaption of the main event. The lights start to fade and the din becomes a roar. The emcee walks out into a spotlight.

"Ladies and gentleman, the Rollin..." Hold it.

Morton West High School's 1,200 seat auditorium was full of super stars March 27 when Havlicek School students took to the stage for the school's annual talent show. This year's production was entitled "Peace, Love & Havlicek."

The event is held every year to show off the talents of the Havlicek School student body, grades kindergarten through fifth. This year they went back in time when the solution for the energy crisis was Flower Power, and Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone were major fuel sources.

A nod was also made to the Fifth Dimension when the students performed "Age of Aquarius," Jackie DeShannon's "Put a little Love in Your Heart," and even Sonny and Cher's "I got You Babe."

Fourth grade teachers Kathleen Bertuca and Cara Schumacher are the driving force behind the talent show, developing a theme, picking the music, the costumes and doing the impossible: Getting a whole school of kids to learn dance steps and lyrics and stand still and perform. Bertuca and Schumacher have been working together for six years and this is Bertuca's eighth year behind the curtain.

"We started right after Christmas break, practicing once a week for an hour and 45 minutes" Bertuca said. "We had a full rehearsal this week and had three shows for the kids at Havlicek."

Wednesday's show was for parents and families.

"It's a lot of hard work," Bertuca said.

The show started with a solo performance of "The Star Spangled Banner," masterfully performed by third-grader Yalina Lopez, who sang it straight without the warbling, knew all the words and hit all the high notes of the difficult anthem with a professional's precision.

"Her mom is a singer as well," Bertuca said. "She was at all our practices. She was great."

For most of the kids, this was the music of their grandparents. But they seemed to get it, Bertuca said.

"At first they were a little hesitant, but once they got into the songs they really enjoyed it," she said, adding that the theme's music was way before the teachers' time.

"If it were '80s I'd be able to relate to it," she said. "But we played the part."

In all, there were 27 acts with about 350 students performing throughout the night.

Cara Schumacher said the hardest part of putting on such a show has nothing to do with the performers.

When your students are so well behaved and so good, it's all the behind the scenes work, putting together the sets, the painting, the glittering," she said.

Schumacher and Bertuca are best of friends, she said, so there is no problem with finding time to communicate ideas.

"We usually have a theme picked for next year by the time the show ends," she said.

"All year we think about it and it really starts after Christmas," Schumacher said. "Once it started it's constantly on the mind."

Also contributing behind the scenes were numerous parents, mothers and fathers, and grandparents, who were enlisted to help sew costumes.

Fourth grader Adrianne Bungabung performed a dance to the Carly Rae Jepsen hit, "Call Me Maybe." You can call her a seasoned performer, having sung at parties in the past.

"I was nervous at first but then it was fun," she said. She was joined by fourth-grader Joselin Escalera, who is also a dancer.

"I practice dance moves at home on Wii or without," she said. She has only performed publicly when she was in kindergarten and in her home in front of family, she said. Her experience at the talent show was a good one.

"At first, when the curtains open, you get nervous," she said. "But at the end it's really fun."

Fourth-grader Annette Tzalava was also part of the dance act. For her too, it marked the first time performing before a big crowd.

"First I was nervous and then I got the hang of it," she said. She likes to sing and dance, especially when she's by herself.

The show ended with members of the administration and teaching staff performing a number from "The Brady Bunch."

"It's a very exciting event for the kids, the parents and the teachers of Havlicek School," Bertuca said. "It's a lot of hard work."

And it was an unqualified success as well.

"Especially when you see the looks on all the kids' faces, and the smiles on the families' faces," Bertuca added.