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When the lights went out at this school play, the audience lit the stage with their phones

The light of dozens of phones illuminated this middle school’s production of James and the Giant Peach.
The light of dozens of phones illuminated this middle school's production of James and the Giant Peach.

The lights went out without warning.

But the students from the Miles River Middle School in Hamilton never skipped a beat, and the show, as they say, went on — with the help of the audience’s shining smartphones.

It happened at a production of “James and the Giant Peach” last Friday, when the power in the auditorium cut out suddenly.

Videos and pictures were posted to social media of the moment, showing students pushing through despite the setback —and the kindness of the school community.

Kevin Berube, who handled the lighting, sound, and stage crew as the play’s technical director, said there were about 10 minutes left in the second act and things were going smoothly.

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“There wasn’t a whole lot more that needed to be done,” he said. “Everything was chugging along.”

Then darkness fell, swallowing the room.

“We just lost power completely,” he said.

The performers were young, so one might think they would be stunned, stopping mid-sentence to ask an adult what to do next.

Not these kids, Berube said.

“They kept going without missing a beat. They didn’t stop or look or around or wonder what was happening,” he said. “And then the narrator, who kind of runs the whole show, just took her entrance and we realized they were not going to stop. They handled it so professionally and so well. It was a big surprise to everybody that they just kept going in the dark.”

As the students continued to recite their lines, one by one people in the crowd began to flick on the lights on their smartphones, pointing the devices towards the stage. Around 100 joined in.

Katie Simko, the show’s music director, whose band also mostly lost power, said before anyone knew what was happening, “the entire stage was lit.”

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“The audience was willing to get in on that and say, ‘Ya, the show is going to go on.’ That was really special,” said Simko, who rushed to a nearby grand piano with the show’s pianist to keep the music going.

The audience lit the stage with their smartphones when the lights cut out during a middle school play.
The audience lit the stage with their smartphones when the lights cut out during a middle school play.Lia Whitman

She added, “To see the kids continue like that inspired the adults. The kids were the ones who really drove the moment. I think the amazing thing was that all the adults were ready to throw in the towel.”

Berube posted a video of the scene on Facebook. It shows the crowd cheering loudly at the end of the play, their phones still high in the air, illuminating the students on stage with the tiny spotlights.

The 19 second clip captured the young actors and actresses running to the edge of the stage, locked hand-in-hand, to take a bow, as the glowing lights bobbed like fireflies amid the clapping.

“I am so impressed by the professionalism of my students,” said Chrissy deLima, the drama and public speaking teacher at the school, and the play’s director. “And how coolly they handled what could have been a very scary and stressful situation.”

One of the students in the play told CBS Boston that the sentiment nearly brought tears to her eyes.

“It looked like stars,” Margo Tsouvalas told the television station. “I almost cried. I was holding in a lot of tears because I just thought it was so beautiful.”

Even the town of Hamilton was impressed with the theatrics.

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“The thespians at Miles River Middle School are famous after some inspiring improvisation last Friday,” town officials said in a tweet Friday.

The audience lit the stage with their smartphones when the lights cut out during a middle school play.
The audience lit the stage with their smartphones when the lights cut out during a middle school play. Kevin Berube
The audience lit the stage with their smartphones when the lights cut out during a middle school play.
The audience lit the stage with their smartphones when the lights cut out during a middle school play.Katie Simko

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.