Shirley LAW students sing ‘Zeke’s praises in musical

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SHIRLEY — “Flat Zeke” is a boy who loves music and travels the world listening to people’s favorite songs. But he is no ordinary boy. In fact, he is totally flat–so flat that he can fit inside a mailing envelope. That is why he is known as Flat Zeke.

This year, Lura A. White Elementary School students read the book about “Zeke” and sent copies of the paper-thin character to friends, family, friends of friends and relatives in the hopes of learning about their favorite pieces of music. Dozens of letters were received, and 13 of them were used to create “The Flat Zeke Musical,” which was performed at the school June 11.

Under the direction of music teacher Marla Farrow and ShirleyArts! Director Meredith Marcinkewicz, 38 elementary and five middle-school students put on the musical, based on Quinones’ book. Pianist Michael Hoffman served as the accompanist.

” Zeke” is the creation of Shirley resident Linda Quinones, and this is the fifth year that the author and illustrator has worked on the worldwide connection between LAW students and those with whom they correspond. Each year she writes and illustrates a book about a character that the children then mail to friends, relatives, or acquaintances around the world. This year the students sent “Zeke” to those whom they felt would write back with information about their favorite songs, as well as photos of “Zeke” at their locations.

Quinones started her series of books with the Jeff Brown character “Flat Stanley,” whose travels were recorded on a large map along with the postcards and photos that he sent back. In 2006, Quinones created Stanley’s cousin, “Smiley Miley,” who traveled the world looking for jokes and riddles. Two years ago, the character was “Braise Chopped,” who collects recipes and now has his own cookbook. Last year, Quinones introduced “Gail Bean the Recycling Queen,” an environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible character who brought back tips on composting and recycling from around the world. “Zeke” is mainly interested in music.

The opening song, written by Quinones, was “Zeke’s Song,” sung to the tune of The Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” First-grader Zoe Saldana introduced the song as Zeke’s favorite.

Disney’s “It’s a Small World” was introduced by first-grade student Connor Weston; performers danced in pairs. Jack Pedreschi introduced “Are You Sleeping?,” a song from France, and Rebecca King announced the Jonas Brothers’ song “This is Me,” for which the younger students were joined by middle-school performers Jenna Bailey, Amber Dobson, Brittany Gibbons, Kiley Landers and Laura Wilson. Caitlin Quinones served as their choreographer.

First-grader Jake Oskirko then introduced the song “Mah Na Mah Na,” popularized by the Muppets, as having come from California, and Catherine Quinty presented “Do-Re-Mi” from “The Sound of Music.” Rosalind Lupaczyk informed the audience that Julie Andrews sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from the movie “Mary Poppins.” The middle-school students interpreted the song in a lively dance with colorful scarves.

Riley Murphy introduced “Kookaburra,” a song from Australia, then Sam Kahn told the audience that the song, “Life Is a Highway,” was featured in the movie “Cars.” Choreographer Brenda Boucher then stepped up with dancers Dryden Arsenault, Kevin Harris, Sam Kahn, Liam Mountford, Jack Pedreschi, Trey Sears, Connor Weston, Linnane, and Alex Wilson, all of whom wore dark sunglasses for the occasion.

A country tune, “Begging to You,” sent in by student Jessica Walters’ grandfather, had Alex Wilson begging Sarah Kahn to take him back in a skit that ended with Alex doing the housework. The middle-school dancers kicked up their heels in cowgirl hats and neckerchiefs during “If You Want to Play in Texas.” “The Air Force Song,” mailed to student Jean Paul Dube by a sergeant in the Air Force, sent the performers marching around the school gym. Amanda Wilson introduced the last piece, “Don’t Let the Music Stop.”

LAW librarian Kathryn Lyon, with help from library assistant Lauren Dill and volunteers Judy Stanislaw and Gina Pandeciso, organized the annual letter-writing campaign that inspired “The Flat Zeke Musical.” She said that the flat character mailings not only give students experience with letter writing and geography, but also provide them with joy, especially when they get written responses.