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For so many kids, the name Disney means magic

Many kids will never have the chance to perform in a Disney musical. But thanks to Wharton Center and Disney Theatrical Group, elementary schools across the state of Michigan are able to join in on the magic.

While Disney Musicals in Schools has expanded into 21 arts centers throughout the country and in the UK, Wharton Center is the only facility in Michigan to partner with Disney to bring musicals to under resourced Michigan elementary schools.

The Disney Musicals in Schools program is designed to build sustainable theater programs in under-resourced schools. Schools receive free performance rights, scripts and music for a 30-minute version of a Disney musical, written for elementary school performers.

Benefits of Disney Musicals in Schools

Disney Musicals in Schools was launched in response to Disney Theatrical Group’s concern that students in urban, public schools were not afforded equitable access to the arts. After successfully offering the program in New York City schools, Disney Theatrical Group began partnering with organizations in other communities around the United States.

Elementary students and their teachers work in teams to develop a production throughout a 17-week residency, with Wharton Center’s trained teaching artists at the helm. To date, Wharton Center has partnered with eighteen schools in Lansing, Flint, Adrian, and Delton, and have helped over 550 students participate in their very first school musical. Will your school be next?

Musical theater combines all the art forms and provides an engaging opportunity for young people to work onstage or behind the scenes. But beyond the joys of storytelling onstage, musical theater moves the body and feeds the soul. The program fosters creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, self-confidence and discipline in the students.

Each year, the program culminates with a revue featuring each school performing one number from its production on the Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall stage. Family and friends are invited to watch their new stars step into the spotlight.


Selected schools will be expected to:

  • Host a site visit for the selection team during the interview process.
  • Identify a School Team comprising at least 3-5 teachers or staff members, who will oversee and manage the program from beginning to end.
  • Commit to 17 weeks of rehearsal /production in an after-school setting (see timeline), rehearsing 90 minutes, a minimum of 2 times a week for 17 weeks.
  • Produce a 30-minute Disney KIDS musical involving 3rd-5th graders both on and off stage.
  • Provide space, time, materials, and resources for students and the School Team to rehearse and prepare for the musical production. The space must be open with room for participating students to move, dance, and sing loudly.
  • Provide opportunities for the whole school to be connected to the production.
  • Involve parents and the larger community in the mounting of the production.
  • Hold a minimum of one public performance of the musical.
  • Participate in the culminating Student Share Celebration event at Wharton Center at the end of the program.

Wharton Center selects up to six schools to participate in our Disney Musicals in Schools program. To be eligible, schools must be Title I and have at least 50% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, and/or show lack of arts opportunities due to geographic location, and be roughly 90 minutes away or less from Lansing. Schools should include some combination of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. We are looking for schools that are interested in building a sustainable musical theatre program, that understand the importance of arts education and plan to make it a part of their building culture for years to come.