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Broadway musical a highlight of Children's Festival of the Arts

St. Albert Children's Theatre production of Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical shows importance of kindness, acceptance
St. Albert Children's Theatre production students learn to operate the light booth at the Arden Theatre.

One of the mainstage highlights of this year’s International Children’s Festival of the Arts is Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical, a show never produced in the Edmonton region, or for that matter, Western Canada. 

Coming to the festival from May 30 to June 2 by St. Albert Children’s Theatre (SACT), it’s a musical about the importance of showing kindness and acceptance toward everyone. 

The plot centres around Lily Polkadot, an eight-year-old girl whose skin is completely covered in polka dots. She’s moved to Rockaway, a square town, and is the only one of her kind. Lily is polite and eager to make friends. But she is generally shunned or bullied and must drink from a segregated water fountain. 

Sky Square is a shy eight-year-old boy completely covered in squares. He prefers video games to people but is secretly captivated by Lily, and the duo quickly become pals.  

Penelope Square is Sky's nine-year old sister who believes Polkadot and Square people should be kept separate. She is bossy, brassy and loves to be the centre of attention. 

“This is an opportunity to do something with an important message,” said SACT artistic director Janice Flower. “The message is so important today, because we have issues with trans kids. We want to make everyone feel included.” 

This play is an offshoot of the real-life story of Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine. In 1960, six-year-old Bridges became the first African-American child to attend a Louisiana school for white families. For the first year, she was escorted by FBI security because of protests from white parents and children. 

The Little Rock Nine was another famous African-American high school group that battled segregation, racial slurs and violence in Arkansas. A marshal accompanied them to school to prevent violence. However, since the students were in high school instead of elementary, fights did break out among students. 

Polkadots features a cast of 19 young actors, with the main roles played by Hannah Adamson (Lily), Kate Guile (Penelope) and Em Cresswell (Teacher) and Madelaine Hartikainen (Mother). Elliot Frankiw and Jette Skwaruk are tapped for the role of Sky. 

The musical features 10 stylistically poppy songs textured with a Motown vibe, prompting listeners to shake it up to such numbers as First Day, Sticks and Stones, One Pal, Beautiful and Squadot

Flower first heard of the play when lyricist-composer Douglas Lyons brought it to her attention prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It was a fun, little show, but it had a small cast of four or five. We never do a show with less than 20 kids,” Flower said. 

Other youth theatre groups additionally asked for a cast expansion and Lyons, composer Greg Borowsky and script writer Melvin Turnstall III obliged.  

“The show is done in a beautiful, simple way," Flower said. "It’s a not-in-your-face message, and I hope it prompts dialogue between teachers and students, parents and kids. Everybody has to feel they belong.” 

Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical plays at the Arden Theatre. Tickets are $18.25 online at or at 780-459-1542. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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