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A magic carpet ride

Pennwood Middle School is presenting ‘Aladdin Jr.’ this weekend

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

A whole new world: On Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, Pennwood Middle School is presenting the spring musical Aladdin Jr., a touching production about love and friendship, based upon the classic Disney tale. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Carpets will soar through the air, hilarious genies will emerge from ancient lamps, and the poor will become royalty this weekend, all on the Pennwood Middle School stage.

On Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, co-directors Allison DeKorte and Matthew Snyder are presenting the spring musical Aladdin Jr., a touching production about love and friendship, based upon the classic Disney tale.

On a recent Tuesday, The Times stopped by an after-school rehearsal for a sneak peak into the behind-the-scenes magic. Practice has been underway since December, when auditions took place, and it was instantly evident the amount of time and effort that’s been put in since.

Under the instruction of DeKorte, who sat front and center in the auditorium, everything ran like a well-oiled machine. Donning Arabian-inspired costumes that are sure to transport audiences to Aladdin’s fictional hometown of Agrabah, every student present, from the lead characters to the chorus members, exuded an infectious energy.

According to DeKorte, Aladdin Jr. was selected as the 2019 spring musical for a variety of reasons. Particularly intriguing for her and Snyder was the amount of intricate, large-scale numbers.

“We didn’t want it to be a lot of solos. We wanted to get as many kids involved as possible,” she said. “Most of the songs are chorus numbers.”

When it came to the choreography, Snyder didn’t go easy on the middle schoolers. He knew they were capable of being pushed to their creative limits. During “Prince Ali,” the ensemble dances down both aisles in straight lines, uniting on stage in perfect rhythm for the big reveal of Aladdin’s new royal identity to woo Princess Jasmine.

“Matt has given them challenging choreography,” DeKorte said. “He really hasn’t dumbed it down for kids. They’ve risen to the level of the bar that he has set and it looks really good.”

The two directors are world language teachers at Pennsbury High School with lengthy backgrounds in community theater. For both, this is their first time directing a show at the middle school level, and they’re thrilled about the opportunity.

“Everybody’s seen the animated movie. There’s the live action coming out, there’s the Broadway, but it’s great to support the community, and it’s great that the school district supports the arts,” DeKorte said. “That’s another reason why we chose this — to show the kids that teamwork is important. It’s not just about Aladdin. It has great morals, too, like friendship, telling the truth, being true to yourself. It’s got several good messages.”

Starring in the role of Aladdin is Nick Torres, who brings a charming sense of innocence to the role. Torres shares a natural chemistry with Janki Namboodiripad, who portrays Jasmine.

A magical performance: Starring in the role of Aladdin is Nick Torres, who brings a charming sense of innocence to the role. Torres shares a natural chemistry with Janki Namboodiripad, who portrays Jasmine. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Two standouts are Avery Mackey, who has hilarious comedic timing as he takes on the character of evil and sarcastic Jafar, and Madison Henn, who flawlessly personifies the over-the-top Genie. Henn boasts natural stage presence, dancing abilities and raw vocal talent during “Friend Like Me.”

Over the next several days, the cast and directors will put the finishing touches on perfecting lines and dance steps during almost daily rehearsals. Meanwhile, a number of volunteer parents will be hard at work backstage, dedicating countless hours to building elaborate props and sets, including a massive tiger head to go inside the “Cave of Wonder.”

“The kids have done so much work,” DeKorte said. “We really have challenged them. It’s not just good for a middle school production. The kids really have done a lot of hard work, and I think the community should see that.” ••

If you go…

Pennwood Middle School will present Aladdin Jr. on Friday, March 8, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10 per seat and will be sold at the door for each performance, one hour before showtime. The school is located at 1523 Makefield Road, Yardley.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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