VICENZA, Italy - More than 200 youngsters took the stage at Vicenza Elementary School Dec. 12 to entertain the student body, faculty and a cadre of parents with a performance of the musical "A Bugz Christmas."

Music teacher Angela Hartwig and music and math teacher Michael James conducted the show, which mixed narrative recitals with full-cast choral performances.

"I think Angie wanted it to be a more contemporary performance, taking traditional songs and changing the words to something that children can relate to," said assistant principal, Dr. Lorena Reinhardt.

"Each year they do a big production, but what they're doing now is giving each grade a different role," said school counselor Amy Posmantur.

"They liked the songs and the movement, and the little costumes and the antennae," said community member Branka Lainson, who was recognized for her volunteer efforts that helped make the production a success.

"They got more and more excited as it got closer. They love being active and participating. And they love Angie," she said.

Hartwig and James taught the students their numbers and roles in tandem over the past three months, starting with the big finale and working their way back through the individual numbers, said Hartwig.

"It really wasn't a challenge because I'm used to it," said James, who is teaching his first year at VES after two years at Vicenza High School.

"Most of them really knew what they were doing. It all came together beautifully. I had to get used to the smiles and the hugs because in high school you don't get that," he said.

"It's the process, the challenge," said Hartwig. "They learn to work together as a team, and have fun doing it. It's a team."

In the new year, first-graders will work on maracas and second-graders on steel drums for an end-of-year performance, said James.

Third-graders will work on a musical for performance in the spring, fourth-graders will focus on playing recorder, and fifth-graders will be exposed to music theory and composition, presenting their own work in a coffee house setting later in the school year, said Hartwig.

"We had excellent feedback from the community. The children did a great job and that means the adults, the teachers and the volunteers who worked with them, did a great job," said Reinhardt.

Hartwig and James said parent volunteers are always needed and welcome to support their activities and productions. Parents who would like to get involved should call the school.