“Journey of the Wildhearted” at PS 253 in Brighton Beach

Three departments team up to put on annual show

Brooklyn Daily
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Photo gallery

Roar: Fifth-grader Karina Garcia played a blue tiger who travels to Disneyland.
What a croc!: Zoha Butt, a fourth-grader, played an alligator.
Taking wing: Fifth-grader Veronika Zaluha made quite the stylish bird.
Monkey business: Fifth-grader Gabrielle Malabuyoc was a golden monkey.

It’s a jungle in there!

Sixty fourth- and fifth-graders at PS 253 let their inner animals out on May 15 in the original musical “Journey of the Wildhearted.”

The furred and feathered feature was a collaboration of the Brighton Beach school’s theater, dance, and music programs.

“When we bring all those components together, that’s my favorite part,” said music teacher Adria Francani.

Francani penned the play after talking with her sister and theater instructor Elisia Francani, and dance teacher Andrea Caputo about what to do for PS 253’s annual spring show. The trio discussed what songs they might like to have the kids sing — “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha and the Vandellas and Katy Perry’s “Roar” came to mind — and that planted the seed of the story in Francani’s mind.

“It just popped into my head, ‘why don’t we do jungle theme?’” said Francani.

So Francani wrote the tale of a blue Maltese tiger who leaves his rainforest home to travel to Disneyland in hopes of becoming a movie star. The show included songs ranging from Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to “When I Grow Up” from the musical “Matilda,” all with rewritten lyrics to fit the story.

Dozens of students auditioned, and those picked practiced three days a week for almost three months, both during and after school. Francani credits Principal Lisa Speroni’s support of creative programming for the show’s success.

“We all as a team feel very lucky to work in a school that has an administration that truly believes in the arts,” Francani said.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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