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And the winner is …

The Oscar frenzy has been all over the media during the past week.  The talking heads discussed everything from the best movie to the best dress on the red carpet.   The best movie of the year, best actor and actress, and best supporting cast were debates worthy of Lincoln and Douglas.  
Despite all the hype and promotion, my vote was clear about the best production I saw this past week.  It wasn’t even close.  Disney’s The Little Mermaid performed by the kids at Seminole County Elementary School was without a doubt the best children’s production I have ever seen in my life.
It isn’t like I have never seen a children’s play before.   For years, I faithfully recorded shows from Miss Karen’s Kindergarten through high school plays.    All were wonderful, especially when your own children are performing.
To be clear, I didn’t have a child, grandchild or favorite nephew or niece in The Little Mermaid.  What I did have was my granddaughter, Laura, in my lap and my grandson, Henry, sitting between me and Mary Lou.   Like me, they were mesmerized by the entire production.
From the very first scene, this was an over the top production.   The costumes and makeup were amazing.  The timing was perfect.   There were showstoppers and scene stealers at every turn.  
To make it more unbelievable, this was a musical.  No canned music here, but rather the clear sweet voices of children, none older than the fifth grade.  Not only did they hit every note, but they performed with a style and grace worthy of the best of the Oscar winners in years past.
For over an hour, the performance moved forward.  There was no intermission, no hint of words forgotten, and no cues from the front row.  There was simply an air of confidence from the young performers that made you swell with pride as if they were your own.
Four performances taxed all the supporting staff and of course, the parents.  The auditorium was almost full, with many patrons making a second and third trip.  It was that good.
In a time when people tend to focus on the negatives of schools and dismiss youngsters as addicted to video games and lacking in creative drive; this performance shattered all of the stereotypes.  It was that good.  No, it was great.
First, give credit to the children.  Who knew that such talent resided in our young people?  Second, there was a huge supporting staff, thirty five if you read the program.  However, those that made this so special number much higher than this.  
Think of the parents and teachers of the roughly one hundred children that participated in this show.  My hat is off to them for not only putting in the effort to get these children to practice, but also for encouraging them to participate in the arts in the first place.
Make no mistake about it; this is why arts in our schools is important.  My hat is off to Tony and Joy Buczek for bringing out the best of these children for the world to see.  For all that worked to make these children stars, we all say thanks.  
At the Oscars we have heard for years and years, “And the winner is …”   The winners this week are the children, the parents, the teachers, and anyone that was fortunate enough to see this incredible show.   
Bravo.  Bravo.  Well Done.
Dan Ponder can be reached at

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