Volume 17, Number 47 | April 15 — 21, 2005


Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Dustin Bagby with P.S. 89’s Kyra Hagerman after she sang “Pippi Longstocking.”

P.S. 89 students’ talent shines on Friday night

By Jefferson Siegel

Audience members yelled out greetings to performers. People left their seats to wander in front of the stage. No, this wasn’t a rock concert or East Village music slam. But last Friday night, it looked like the best show in town.

P.S. 89 in Battery Park City held their second annual talent show last Friday, and by all accounts it was a smashing success. The school found a way to fill the school’s coffers while fulfilling the performing dreams of its talented students.

Jill Herlands, the producer, director and scenic designer of the evening’s extravaganza, stood backstage before the curtain went up and talked about the show. “We’ve got 50 acts performing on stage from singers, dancers, magicians, to circus acts.” She looked out at the audience filling the hall and continued, “One hundred percent (of ticket sales) go to the kids...and we’re going to beat last year without a doubt. It goes to classrooms and supplies and programs.

Everything they need that there are shortages of, it goes directly to them and their class.”

But this evening was all about the talented student performers. “I’m very proud of the kids, very proud of the turnout, and I really couldn’t ask for anything more,” Herlands said. “All the hard work was worth it. People that didn’t have kids in the show are here. It’s just really great, I’m really happy.” She then turned to the backstage volunteers, gave a signal and it was showtime.

The show’s opening rocked out as an eighth grader, Evan Coleman, and fifth grader Jess Coleman played Green Day’s “American Idiot.” They were followed by perhaps the most endearing performance ever of the song “Pippi Longstocking.” First grader Kyra Hagerman, her orange hair braided and held aloft by wires, captured everyone’s hearts. The show’s first half was a bounty of singing, dancing, gymnastics and even a circus act. Fourth grader Me’khai Lewis held the audience spellbound singing the spiritually-themed “Save Me.” Fourth grader Makoto Shirashi performed “The Sting” on piano. And first grader Gabriel Colon had everyone clapping along as he danced to “I’m Your Boogie Man.”

As one act left and another prepared to take the stage, M.C. Dustin Bagby, one part Catskills comic and one part Las Vegas showman, kept the audience entertained with jokes, leaving some laughing and others groaning.

Assistant director and proud parent Wade Watson stood backstage and marveled at the performances. “These kids have talent. I’ll tell you the one reason why I am so glad to be involved with this event. Just to let the kids feel comfortable being on stage is such a gift for them to learn at a young age. Just to see these kids go up there, no fear, lights on, interface and performing and doing a great job. It’s really about the kids and them learning how to have fun up on the stage.” He explained how one school could have such an abundance of talent. “We live Downtown, so you have a lot of artists who live Downtown, and therefore, with a lot of artists are artist’s kids and you’re seeing it here tonight.”

Fourth grader Siena Edwards played classical piano. Kindergartners Christina Watson and Maria Skovel gave a rousing performance of “Tomorrow” from the show “Annie.” Fifth graders Renata Horowitz and Dena Moftah used several dance styles, including some classical ballet, to dance to the sounds of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” First grader Nyela Graham read a moving poem, followed by first grader Mari Manuel, who delivered a powerful a capella spiritual style song, “Breakaway.”

The stage was covered with sparkling silver confetti and overhead hung several dozen large silver stars, each with the name of a performer. “Each child in the show has a star with their name on it, these are our stars,” Herlands explained.

For the finale, all the performers returned to the stage and sang and danced to the song “Mamma Mia” as the audience rose to its feet in applause. Afterwards, the reviews were positive. Cora Watson, mother of Christina, said, “I thought it was fantastic. I enjoyed it. My 3-year old enjoyed it. He paid attention the whole time!”

Mati Manuel, mother of Mari, said, “It was great, they were all very excited but nobody had stage fright, everybody was dying to get onto the stage and they were all helping each other out practicing. It was really fun. No throwups, no accidents.”

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