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Diving Into the Adventure of Finding Nemo, Jr.

Country Day School students took the stage and brought the ocean to life through a heartfelt and entertaining performance of “Finding Nemo, Jr.” This was Country Day School’s first all-school performance since 2019. 

The 60-minute musical adaptation of the beloved 2003 Pixar movie “Finding Nemo,” featured CDS fifth-grade students in the starring roles as leaders. But even kindergarten and junior pre-k students, who usually don’t have the responsibility of learning lines or performing for a house that holds over 600 people, delivered their lines confidently. 

“With the younger students, we were able to focus on bravery and confidence, with the understanding that our only job was to do the best we could do,” said Chloe Torrence, Music and Theatre Arts Director at SSA. “They internalized the idea: ‘When we do our very best to tell the story and have fun, we bring so much joy and excitement to our audience.’” 

In the musical, Marlin, an anxious and over-protective clownfish—played by Kallen A.—lives in the Great Barrier Reef with his son Nemo—played by Phin P. Nemo is captured and taken to Sydney, and Marlin faces his fears and sets off on an epic adventure across the ocean. With the help of lovable characters such as optimistic Dory—played by Olive M.—and laid-back sea turtle Crush—played by Jackson H.—Marlin and Nemo both overcome challenges on their journey to find each other and themselves.

Ms. Torrence also highlighted how the supporting cast for the production relied on CDS’s buddy system – where our younger students would have on-stage comradery with their buddies from the upper grades in their respective groups (seagulls, turtles, sharks, etc). This created a school-wide support structure throughout the performance that helped all the students shine. 

The musical featured memorable and heartwarming songs such as “Just Keep Swimming,” “Fish Are Friends Not Food,” and “Go With the Flow.” Ms. Torrence explained how they practiced the individual songs and scenes in Music/Theater Arts class and then stitched them together in one dress rehearsal the day before the show. “We put a lot of focus on sequencing and knowing what comes next in the story so we could make our dress rehearsal as seamless as possible,” said Ms. Torrence. 

The CDS Parents’ Association and CDS parents played a large part in helping construct the colorful coral reef set and outfit the students in thematic costumes. 

“The performance of ‘Finding Nemo, Jr.’ stands out as one of the most memorable, uplifting moments of my tenure at Shady Side,” said Shady Side president Bart Griffith ’93. “The joy that the students created together in the Rauh Theater was palpable — and overwhelmed only by the sense of pride in Shady Side on everyone’s faces. The show was both big and intimate, relational, and robust – everything that is unique and wonderful about an SSA education.” 


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