Linton students ready to let genies loose with 'Aladdin'
William Berkshire hasn't had a chance to be the bad guy before, and he's enjoying it.
The 14-year-old eighth-grader is playing the evil sorceror Jammal in Linton Middle School's spring musical, “Aladdin and His Wonderful, Magical Lamp,” which opens this weekend.
Berkshire, who has performed in previous musicals and the school's one-act plays, said he is having a great time playing the antagonist.
“There's something about being bad to the good guys that just makes it fun,” he said.
Berkshire will be joined by fellow cast members in playing the story of Aladdin, who in Tim Kelly and Pam Hughes' adaptation of the classic story must contend with not one but three genies, Jammal, his mother and others.
If that sounds unfamiliar, it's because the musical does not follow the same storyline as the Disney adaptation released in 1992.
“The lamp is actually from China, and pretty much all of the songs are different,” Berkshire said.
On the bright side, playing an evil sorceror turns out to be much less itchy for Berkshire, who portrayed the Scarecrow in last year's musical, “Oz.”
“My costume this year is just a lot of cloth, puffy pants and no bags of straw,” he said.
For seventh-grader Sydney SeNay, this year's musical is a big step up.
She is going from portraying a guardian at the Gates of Oz to playing one of the main characters, Princess Jasmine, this year.
“I've been wanting to be in musicals and on Broadway since I was really little, so I think of this as my start,” said SeNay, 12.
“I really love singing and acting, so this is amazing for me.”
And while she is used to singing around her fellow cast members, SeNay said she will have to overcome nerves on opening night.
“I have terrible stage fright,” she said. “But I just have to get into it. In the musical last year, I thought I was going to be terrified, but it was weird.
“I was standing on stage shaking, but I didn't feel anything. I could see the audience, but I just said my lines and it was good.
“But this is different. This is big.”
District teachers Tracey Johnson, Amanda Power, Donna Henke and Barry Plowman are involved in various aspects of the production. Johnson, who along with Power is co-directing the musical, spoke with the Progress recently about preparing for opening night:
Q: How does working on this year's musical, which certainly has fantasy elements but is otherwise set in the real world, compare with the fantastic creatures and locations in last year's production of “Oz”?
A: The Arabian culture, clothes, makeup, and setting are quite different than what we have experienced in the past with our previous musicals.
Q: What specific challenges does “Aladdin” present?
A: This musical is a big challenge because of the iconic characters that are extremely popular due to Disney's version of “Aladdin.”
Q: What have you enjoyed the most about preparing for this year's musical?
A: In addition to our student directors, choreographer, and set assistants, we have had a tremendous amount of help from parents and community members this year. Without their help, a production this size would be hard to pull off. They spent an extraordinary amount of time on the costumes, set construction, props, fundraising, publicity, and so much more.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.