Communication throughout the ages was the theme of a musical performed Thursday night by a talented group of 80-plus Russell Dougherty Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders.

Under the direction of music teacher Ruth Karraker, the students sang their way through “The Grapevine Connection: a Musical Adventure in Communication,” in the First Christian Church sanctuary.

The student-actors were taught by fourth-grade teachers Jennifer Roberson and Jill Ryan, and fifth-grade teachers Jana Dalton and April Robichaux.

The musical combined clever lyrics, choreography, relevant props and spirited singing.

Songs included “From Then to Now,” the introductory summary of the different types of communication, and “Surfin’ the Net,” a tune complete with surfboard and oceanwear.

In addition to the Company, some students were narrators and others had solo parts. During a song about newspapers, a paper boy rode his bike down the center aisle shouting “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”

During rehearsal Wednesday morning, Karraker prepared the students for their roles.

“Think right now what can I do to make this program the best,” she said.

As actors, it was their job to tell the story.

“It will be a complete picture because of your efforts, because of your participation, Karraker said.

Sarah Beth Anderson played Francine, one of the main characters.

“I learned that there’s a lot of different types of communication and it comes in different ways,” she said. “I thought it was very interesting and fun.”

Kendall Glades played several different parts, including a role as a narrator.

It was his first time to be a narrator, and, as a result, he said he was a little nervous.

Glades said he learned that communication is very interesting and that there is a lot to learn from it, from the various forms.

Ann-Marie Stowe played an instrument. She said she learned a lot about communication, the various ways people communicate.

She also learned about people who communicate.

Neha Pullela was a soloist. She said she had been in other productions before this one. But she still gets nervous from time to time.

Pullela said she learned that there are 24 characters in the Egyptian alphabet.

Maddie Little was a computer voice emanating from the all-wise “Information Station.”

Little said she learned about various forms of communication. She said her favorite song in the musical was “Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder.”

Parent helper Shelly Young’s son Chris Young was a member of the cast.

She said it was a joy to see some of the students become more outgoing from one year to the next.

“It’s fun every year because you see things in kids you don’t normally see,” she said.

A gong and drum beats signaled the start of the production. Members of the “Company,” groups of student-singers, covered the chancel steps. On the stage were instruments, the “Information Station” and scenery, including “cave drawings.”

“A blast from the past, a journey from yester-year. We heard all the facts, their sequence in time. It’s written in books and passed on by word of mouth — by communication preserved for all time,” the students sang during “From Then to Now.”

Forms of communication mentioned in the musical included cave drawings, the telegraph, telephones, books, floppy disks, newspapers and TVs.

The first book was made 4,000 years ago in Egypt, the students learned.

As time passed, communication advanced through forms such as The Pony Express and Morse Code.

Back in the day, people were actually afraid of the new-fangled telephone, a reader declared.

“The most important communication system of all time — gossip,” a reader said.

During rehearsal, the students learned about the importance of stage presence and posture. By sitting up straight and singing to the back of the room, they direct their sound out instead of down.

(Education reporter Mark Schlachtenhaufen may be reached via e-mail at


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