[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
“It’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts,” said the Genie in the production of “Aladdin Jr.” presented by the 7th and 8th graders at Wellesley Middle School. This was a key message in the production, in which Myles Chandler, who played a robust Genie with great comedic timing, kept all those present thoroughly entertained.
In four performances between November 29 through December 1, Cast A performed three of the four shows, and Cast B performed the Saturday matinee. A large production with a cast of about 100 dedicated student actors and stage hands, “Aladdin Jr.,” directed by Leah Fine and produced by Katie Speed, brought the audience to their feet.
Feeling trapped in their own personal circumstances — whether it be in a lamp, a castle, or in poverty — the Genie, Jasmine, and Aladdin find ways to escape and go on to live their dreams by finding the courage to be true to themselves. Meanwhile, Jafar, played masterfully by Michael Skuratovsky, and his humorous sidekick, Iago, played craftily by Richard Lehmann, ultimately become entrapped by their own devious manipulations and efforts to attain power. Honesty and power are both in question.
When Princess Jasmine, brilliantly played by Sophia Bogdanovitch, asked her father the Sultan, portrayed majestically by Elias Mitrokostas: “What’s wrong with a woman running the kingdom?” the audience broke out in applause. Later, Jasmine sings a beautiful rendition of “These Palace Walls,” ending in a harmonizing trio with her friends, Isir, Manal, and Rajah, played by Niamh Mosley, Sophie O’Sullivan, and Gwendolyn Brown, who helped to convey the importance of loyalty and true friendship.
Played by the wonderful Josh Musikavanhu, Aladdin expressed his desire to be a good person to honor his deceased parents. He wanted to make them proud. His solo rendition of “Proud of Your Boy” was a heartfelt, emotional performance.
Aladdin’s three best friends, Kassim, Babkak and Omar, played by Sam Reisner, Eoghan Kelley, and Kate Taplin, were impressive with their comedic timing, and didn’t miss a step in their choreography, leading the Agrabahns through the fast-paced, energetic number, “High Adventure.”
One of the many highlights of the show was the duet “A Whole New World,” sung beautifully by Jasmine and Aladdin on the magic carpet, as they soared through the kingdom at night, the stars twinkling behind them.
Everyone involved had an important role in bringing the story together. The entire ensemble, from the townspeople of Agrabah to the friends of Aladdin and Jasmine, to the palace guards, and the cast of twinkling stars, lit up the stage with incredible enthusiasm and talent.
The choreography, created by Julia Deter, dazzled with acrobatic flips, cartwheels and back handsprings. The confetti poppers at the end of Prince Ali’s parade were an added treat. The lighting, designed by Ben Rush and operated by Oliver Burstein, and the spooky voiceover by WMS teacher Richard Chute, added to the moods and scene changes. The set, also designed by Ben Rush, simply and elegantly transformed from a palace to a town center, and into a cave. Christine Carpenter designed an impressive range of costumes for the people of Agrabah, from street vendor to Prince.
Cast B - which featured Tyler Lack as Aladdin; Julia Pekowitz as Jasmine; Emily Prus as the Genie; Griffin Vella as the sultan; Jordan St. Louis, Maiwenn Kamdje, and Bianca Horner as Aladdin’s friends; and Eloise Svedlund, Eloise Zeng, and Olivia Frank as Jasmine’s friends - gave an equally impressive and talented performance on Saturday afternoon.
“This was the largest number of students we have seen in a show since doing a production with all three grades. It was daunting, but worth every bit of hard work we put into it. I could not have done this without my fantastic staff and the incredible students who worked so very hard, from the cast to the stage crew. It was a labor of love,” said Leah Fine, who did a great job casting two fantastic ensembles along with help from Deter.
“What impressed me most was how enthusiastically the roles were played by the cast members,” said parent Kimberley O’Sullivan. “There was such cohesiveness and they had so much fun; it reflected a real bond of friendship between the students.”
Yes, it takes a whole village full of friendships and support to free a princess, a pauper, and a genie.
WMS is lucky to have that village here.
Photos by John Harmon, Sandy Sandwich Productions