Take a magic carpet ride to Shaler Area Middle School’s ‘Aladdin’ musical
Monday, February 10, 2020 | 12:01 AM
Shaler Area Middle School students will take audiences to a whole new world when they perform “Aladdin” Feb. 19 through 22.
A cast of 49 and crew of 25 students will present the musical incorporating songs from both the 1992 Walt Disney Pictures animated film and 2011 Broadway production, director Jennifer Birch said.
The musical follows Aladdin, played by eighth-grader Max Milligan, an impoverished young adult who befriends Princess Jasmine, played by seventh-grader Katie Kemper, while she is exploring Agrabah’s streets.
Aladdin discovers a magic lamp, releasing a genie, played by eighth-grader Joshua Clark. The musical also features seventh-grader Ryan McGaffick as the sultan, eighth-grader Luka DePasquale as Jafar, the sultan’s trusted adviser and seventh-grader Ayla Hursen as Iago, Jafar’s minion.
Many have helped make the show a reality.
Birch, a seventh-grade teacher, directed a Shaler Area middle school stage adaptation of the animated “Aladdin” in 2009. Some of the performers from that show, who are now adults, returned to work with the current cast on their own production.
“It was so special to see,” Birch said.
When it comes to his role as Jafar, Luka DePasquale is taking guidance from his father, John, a former University of Pittsburgh student director.
“He’s helping me out with my voice, my character, my body, my inflection, so he can make me the best evil character I can be. I think this one is just going to blow my family’s socks off because they usually see me as a happy-go-lucky guy, but they’re going to see me as an evil guy.”
Max is excited to see the reaction the show gets from the children in the audience.
“Little kids are going to be, like, ‘Oh, look it’s Aladdin,’ you know? ‘Oh, my gosh, I know this song.’ And they’re going to be into it, and I just hope to inspire a little kid like me like when I was a little kid sitting there in the audience,” Max said. He went on to describe how watching his older sister, Kellie, perform in school musicals and choir concerts impacted him.
“It inspired me to do this. It was the reason why I like theater so much, I think,” he said.
Shaler Area High School seniors Michael Bly and Caroline Clontz are choreographer and vocal coach, respectively. Additional high schoolers have assisted with rehearsals, Birch said.
“When I first heard that there was a Genie in this and I saw the Broadway version, there was tap in it so I asked Miss Birch if we could put tap in the show,” said Joshua Clark, who performs tap, ballet and jazz at Pittsburgh CLO Academy, in addition to acting and singing.
The high school Gifted and Talented Education program is building a rolling frame for the magic carpet that Aladdin and Princess Jasmine will ride. Birch said that some of Steven Baleno’s eighth-grade classes have taken cast headshots for a lobby display and aided in acquiring props and costume pieces.
Kristen Paul, high school family and consumer sciences teacher, helped with costumes, along with two parents.
“We are using costumes from our 2009 production of ‘Aladdin’ at the middle school and a later production of ‘Aladdin Jr.’ at Shaler Area Elementary,” Birch said. “Ellen Spondike, our band teacher, made a lot of the elementary costumes, and we’ve repurposed those.”
Katie Kemper was “shocked” as a seventh-grader to land her major role as Princess Jasmine. She decided to try out because singing and performing are her passions.
“Everyone here is really nice, and I’m really happy that I got to participate,” she said.
If you go:
What: Shaler Area Middle School presents “Aladdin”
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 21 and 2 p.m. Feb. 22. There will be a special preview for senior citizens at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 19.
Where: The school auditorium, at 1810 Mount Royal Blvd.
Tickets: Reserved seating tickets are on sale at the school activities office for $9. General admission tickets, at the door, are $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $3 for students. Doors open one hour before show times. All ticket sales are cash only.