'The show must go on': Rural musical moves online to teach life lessons, build community

The musical director says continuing on teaches the kids resiliency and how life can change.

Musical director says continuing on teaches the kids resiliency and how life can change

Musical director Sarah Posehn and the students meet twice a week in a group chat to rehearse all together. (Submitted by Sarah Posehn)

An Estevan elementary school has decided the show must go on and will put on a virtual musical to keep an annual tradition alive. 

The Hillcrest Public School puts on a musical at the end of May each year. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the Hillcrest Hurricane drama group's production of Sally Sells Sea Shells.  

Sarah Posehn, a Kindergarten teacher and the musical's director, didn't want to see months of work being lost. 

"We started our rehearsals and auditions in early January," Posehn said. "It was pretty disappointing but it was kind of the least of our worries with everything else that we had to figure out kind of overnight there."

Posehn said that as tim went on, she thought about how restarting the musical virtually could be good for the kids. 

"Still have that community and still be creative and still collaborate together on something during this time when we're all so separated," Posehn said. "It was a great opportunity to still put on our production in some way."

The same company that made Sally Sells Sea Shells created The Show Must Go Online, a new production for people in Posehn's position. Posehn got support from her principal and said it all came together. 

"I went from there and started messaging my kids and getting a little Microsoft team set up and we started our rehearsals pretty quickly," she said. 

Sarah Posehn is a Kindergarten teacher at the Hillcrest Public School in Estevan and the musical director of The Show Must Go Online. (Submitted by Sarah Posehn)

The show is a musical within a musical. It's about a school that has to cancel their musical and risks their drama department being shut down.

"It's broken up that each character gets about a one minute scene where they have to record themselves," she said. "It's meant to be performed at home with stuff you have."

Some tape toothbrushes to their shirts while others are in a closet with a flashlight to their face because they're depressed about the state of drama in the world, for example. 

"It's pretty funny and the songs are really catchy and the kids are having a good time with it," she said. 

Life can go on even though things can change in a heartbeat and it's not going to be the way you thought it was gonna be.- Sarah Posehn

Posehn said the group has team meetings twice a week and she holds one-on-one meetings to work through filming and more. She's teaches them things like lighting themselves properly using a window, holding the phone horizontally instead of vertically, recording themselves and singing together over Zoom.  

After each child records themselves individually, Posehn will put all the videos together so people can watch it as one complete musical. She hopes to get all of the children's recordings by the end of May. 

Posehn said the process is teaching the children life lessons. 

"It's important to teach the kids resiliency," Posehn said. 

"Life can go on even though things can change in a heartbeat and it's not going to be the way you thought it was gonna be."

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Hillcrest Elementary School teacher Sarah Posehn never thought her drama group's musical would be able to go on. But thanks to a production company, and some eager students, the group will stage a virtual production in June. 6:36

About the Author

Heidi Atter


Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.