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Tradition continues at St. Philip's with children's musical

Singing, lots of movement and dancing are part of “Joseph: From the Pit to the Palace,” being presented Sunday, April 6, at St. Philip's Lutheran Church. Star Gazette Photos by Jane Lightbourn

Faith deepening, poise developing, self-esteem building and having fun. Combine them and the end result, hopefully, is a church musical experience that will be remembered a long time.

Place it at St. Philip’s Lutheran Church in Hastings and you have the annual children’s musical, “Joseph – From the Pit to the Palace,” to be presented at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. this Sunday, April 6. This is the 19th year of the musical.

Initially, the musical was presented as an outreach for the vacation Bible school at the church. But it has become so much more to the children, the congregation, and others, church leaders said.

“In that sense, it continues to be a major outreach,” said director Ellen Diischer. “It gives the kids the opportunity to experience their faith in a whole different way, whether it is singing, acting or dancing.

“They learn that, as back then, God still has a plan for us.”

In this musical – which subsequently has become the stage’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” — Joseph, the favored son, is sold into slavery by his brothers and becomes a prisoner. Twenty years later he is second in command and his brothers seek him out asking for forgiveness.

“You have temptation, jealousy, hatred, forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation – all these themes,” said Diischer. “Many of these themes are recognized by the kids, and the fact that he (Joseph) stayed on the right path.”

The songs in the production tell part of the story as well.

“There are ballads, rock, techno pop and there is some fun dancing,” said Diischer.

Having a new sanctuary at the church is another plus for this particular musical, said Diischer.

“We have this brand new sanctuary and it is big and beautiful; and we now have the lighting and sound capability to do a musical like this,” she said.

Diischer stress she is not alone in having the musical “come together” in a few months. Her co-director is Heidi Nelson. There are other helping with the lights, sound, large screen, costumes and props.

Choir alumnae Alyssa Evenson and Reba Williams are assisting, as are John Diischer, Paul Hellen, Naomi Stout, Greg McKenzie, Bruce Arndtson, Tim Preston and Annette Hanson. The parents and families, as well as the staff and congregation of St. Philip’s, have provided ongoing support and encouragement. For years, a congregational member has provided T-shirts for the children in the musical.

In years past, the musical was in a much smaller sanctuary. The overflow seating was in the narthex. Seeing and hearing what was happening was sometimes challenging.

“Now we are wide open with a sloping seating area,” said Diischer. “You are able to see and hear everything, so that is a new aspect. That involves getting used to, though.”

It means that the performers are much more visible and they are learning to adapt to that new aspect.

For the audience, ”Joseph” provides some participation as well, said Diischer. Cues will be provided for them —- they may be invited to clap, cheer.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

As the 35 kids rehearse, learn their lines and songs, some dance routines, they also learn other things, said Diischer.

“Hopefully, their faith deepens,” she said, “And they are more aware of God working in them as they proclaim the Gospel and their faith. They are becoming more familiar with the Bible.

“They develop poise, more self esteem, moving from a ‘yourself’ position to becoming more of the ensemble,” said Diischer. “Then, too, seeing that their participation is important to the whole – again that is what the Body of Christ is. Of course, I hope they are having a lot of fun.”

Participants say they are doing just that.

“It’s fun,” said Claire Glade. “You make new friends, have fun and express your faith.”

“I love drama and acting,” said Kenzie Langenfeld. “This space is so much bigger

“It is fun,” said Meghan Oseko. “I like to sing a lot.”

This is the fourth musical that Linnea Hanson has participated in. She’s excited about her role this year.

“I get to say two paragraphs of lines,” she said.