It wasn’t the golden statuettes, the crystal chandeliers or the velvet seats that made Jasmine Hernandez nervous as she took the stage of the Majestic Theater on Broadway Monday morning with other students from Public School 111 in Manhattan. It was the company.
“I usually perform only at my school,” Jasmine, 14, said, catching her breath after coming off stage. She had just headlined a song from “Seussical Jr.,” a Dr. Seuss-themed musical adapted for children. “Not in front of people from 19 other schools.”
And the eyes of several hundred middle school students in the velvet seats was nothing compared with the fact that Harry Potter himself (O.K., Daniel Radcliffe, the young actor who plays him in the movies) had introduced the P.S. 111 students as they took the stage.
In case there was any doubt, Mr. Radcliffe has not lost the power to elicit excited squeals from a crowd of New York City tweens. “Oh, my God,” Jasmine said. “It was really nerve-racking performing in front of him!”
They were all there for the finale of the sixth annual collaboration between the Shubert Foundation, ArtsConnection and other nonprofit partners, who spend the year working with city public schools lacking theater programs to help them produce musicals, first by providing step-by-step guidance, and then by encouraging them to produce them. The Majestic Theater, currently home to “The Phantom of the Opera,” lent its stage.
The focus is on participation, not necessarily on finding the next Broadway star. The student performers, who came from 15 schools this year, wore matching blue T-shirts, not costumes, and there were no props. But even when notes went flat and choreography was out of sync, as it sometimes was, the students ran off the stage in sort of a post-performance elation.
Jaharriah Dixon, 13, who sang the part of the genie in Aladdin’s “Friend Like Me,” gave a standout performance, in part because at 5-foot-7 (her dad is 6-foot-7), she literally towered head and shoulders above her classmates. The kindergarten teacher at her school, P.S./M.S. 4 in the Bronx, had choreographed the students in a Charleston style-shimmy, and Jaharriah’s hip swivel brought whoops from the crowd.
This was her second year performing at the Majestic, and her previous experience helped to control her nerves. “I want to sing when I grow up,” she said, using a phrase that sounded out of place from someone so poised.
Nyasia Carroll, 12, who introduced the group from Middle School 57 in Brooklyn performing “We Dance” from “Once on This Island Jr.,” explained how they had learned the true meaning of the phrase “the show must go on” during their actual performance at school last week. The show’s recorded music had stopped — but the students kept going.
There was no such disaster this time, and as she ran off stage left, stage, she had an extra surprise. Mr. Radcliffe, dressed in a button-down shirt and jeans, had stuck around, nodding his head and smiling from the wings.
He was also shaking hands and patting shoulders, and after the students filed past him, some of the girls dissolved into star-struck yelps. Nyasia’s dreams of becoming a star were momentarily overcome by the thrill of meeting one. “I touched him!” she said.
Every Tuesday, education beat reporters for The New York Times take you inside the New York City schools, public and private. Have a tip? Send it to [email protected].