BATH — P.T. Barnum might have been the greatest showman of the 19th century, but students in Aiken County Public Schools' acGATEWAY program claimed that title Tuesday for the 21st.

Middle- and high-school students from across Aiken County sang, danced, played musical instruments and read original poetry during the summer fine and performing art program's annual showcase. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends packed the auditorium at Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School to cheer them on.

For the finale, the students performed selections from “The Greatest Showman,” a movie inspired by Barnum, the founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus and credited with inventing show business.

The production, set in a red-and-white striped circus tent, featured performers in colorful costumes, a bearded lady and, of course, a ringmaster in a scarlet coat with tails and a top hat.

The showcase also featured vocal and instrumental music, dance groups, a one-act play and poetry readings.

Allan Russell and Deshawn Stevens, who have been in the program since elementary school and graduated in June and are headed to college, sang “Love is a Losing Game” and “ Vittoria, mio core!,” respectively, as a Senior Send Off farewell performance.

acGATEWAY 2019 DSC_0844

Dancers pick up the beat Tuesday during a performance to "MIC Drop" during the showcase for the Aiken County Public Schools' acGATEWAY 2019 summer program for the fine and performing arts.

During the program, Pamela Key, a rising senior at South Aiken High who participated in the dance concentration, and Le'landra Jarvis, a rising junior at Silver Bluff High who participated in the art concentration, received the Joe Laorenza Awards.

Laorenza was a long-time band director at Aiken High School who worked with acGATEWAY for many years.

“We wanted to reward kids that I feel Joe would be proud of, who symbolized the passion and creativity of what this program offers,” said Lauren Gehr, an acGATEWAY instructor who presented the awards. “I think Joe would be proud of the people we choose because they are not only good at what they do but also are just passionate about being good artists.”

The acGATEWAY program, which stands for Aiken County’s Gifted & Talented Education with Artistic Youth, is the Aiken County Public School District’s free summer arts program that allows students to immerse themselves in their talent area. Students audition and are recommended for the program.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.