Oliver Street Elementary is among a handful of schools in and around Newark that is performing musicals based on Disney cartoon movies, funded by a 100-thousand dollar Disney grant to NJPAC.
Earlier this week, Oliver Street School Music Teacher Ashley DeWitt was directing students as they prepare for next week’s performance of Aladdin.
DeWitt: "When I saw the Aladdin show (on Broadway) I was really inspired by their costumes so we actually got some of girls are wearing belly dancing costumes so it gave us al ot of ideas and the set, the magic carpet was really cool, I wish we could do, but we got our own magic carpet here too."
One of those who gets to ride the magic carpet is Aladdin himself, portrayed by Brandon, who’s in fifth grade.
Doug: What do you like about being Aladdin?
Brandon: "I get to move around a lot, I get to memorize lines, and I like that he's generous and nice."
Aladdin’s personality wins over Princess Jasmine in the show. Oliver Street’s Jasmine is Samantha. She sings beautifully on stage, but that didn’t happen overnight.
Jasmine: "It's been taking a lot of time for us to get through the whole play in one day. It's fun and I like having this role to play."
Gabriel plays Jasmine’s father Sultan.
Gabriel: "It's actually really fun, being a lead and the father of Jasmine. She does want to save me and she does show kindness to her father."
Getting youngsters to blend their voices takes hard work and patience, but music teacher Filomena Mastrolia says that’s part of the rewarding process of working with students
Mastrolia: "Well the one great thing is that most students are excited about singing so they are always really excited and enthusiastic. It's easier to bring it out of them when they're really excited about singing. The rest, the pitches and singing together that's just something that takes a lot of practice and focus."
Aladdin is set in a fictional Arabian City. Turning the auditorium’s stage into a palace is the work of visual arts teacher Rosalie Nascimento who has done an amazing job all on her own time.
Nascimento: "Definitely using what we have on hand, there are actually cardboard set backgrounds left from last year. And I guess I traveled to Morocco and got inspired from of the buildings there."
Aladdin has a wonderful villain, Jafar, a role that Keneky says she's enjoying.
Keneky: "Yes, it's my first time and it wasn't that hard. It's pretty cool because I never acted that way before. When I get the lamp, that's my favorite part."
In Disney’s movie Aladdin, the late Robin Williams stole the show as Genie, tough shoes to fill in this production, but Carolina is ready, she was one of the star’s of last year’s production of Lion King.
Doug: I remember you from last year's production, you love doing this don't you?
Carolina: "Yes I do"
Doug: What about this Genie character?
Carolina: "Genie is very energetic and that's my actual personality in real life."
Doug: I think everybody would like to be a genie, they could grant wishes, if you had one wish someone could grant for you, what would it be?
Carolina: "To save all the dogs from dog fights and to not kill them if there aren't any (would be) owners coming to shelters."
The cast consists of third through fifth graders who most of them having a speaking part or a section of a song. Director Ashley DeWitt says that’s the beauty of the Disney funded grant
DeWitt: "It's actually the Disney way through NJPAC to make sure that each child in the cast feels important and they have a very special role in the play."
I’ll let Brandon give you another reason to get a ticket to this Thursday’s performance at Oliver Street School, his voice.
Brandon sings opening of "A Whole New World"...
You can contact the Oliver Street School for more information about Aladdin.