They got a new gym and fine arts center and a new, enlarged stage for the 2018-19 school year. Now, St. Joseph Cathedral School is ready to deliver a brand, new spring musical with their junior high students this weekend.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, the community is invited to the school's production of Disney's "Aladdin Jr." Watching this high-energy show in the 11,200 square-foot gymnasium and fine arts center with a 3,000 square-foot stage will be a "whole new world" for regular musical attendees.
"Thanks to the collaborative efforts made to expand the gym and fine arts center, it was done in time for the school year and we could start using it for this production," said Ruth Ann Stratman, production manager for "Aladdin Jr." and St. Joseph Cathedral School librarian. "We decided to do 'Aladdin Jr.' because of the brand new stage and the capabilities we had this year. We have a brand new sound system, lighting system — everything is state of the art."
The "Aladdin Jr." crew is also able to utilize a DVD scenery background incorporated with on-stage sets and props, a smoke machine for Genie and a moving magic carpet, Stratman said. Those bells and whistles certainly create a quality, magical ambiance seen in the original Academy Award-winning Disney 1992 film and 2014 hit Broadway show. However, the heart of the story is truly delivered with a high caliber by the 35-member cast and crew of sixth- through eighth-grade students, alongside about 50 volunteers.
"Genie is a spontaneous character who doesn't give a care in the world, is always happy and seeks freedom," Case added. She has participated in Helias Catholic High School's "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Wizard of Oz," along with a few plays at The Little Theatre.
"It turns into this wild adventure. He finds the genie and the lamp and then does whatever it takes to win the princess's hand," said Lanigan, who has acted in multiple St. Joseph Cathedral School shows, musicals at Helias Catholic High School, The Little Theatre's "The Little Mermaid" and about a handful of Capital City Productions performances, including a principle role in "Newsies."
Trying to earn the respect of the princess, Jasmine, played by eighth-grader Hannah Meystrik, Aladdin starts an adventure that will challenge his moral character.
"Jasmine is a strong independent young woman and she wants to be and make her own decisions, so she does that," she said, noting she has acted since third grade in multiple productions at St. Joseph Cathedral School and Helias Catholic High School. "It is a battle to be able to marry who she wants to, and in the end she overcomes it."
Many other familiar lead characters help fill out the cast including Sultan, played by Bryce Allen; Jafar, played by Madison Still; Iago, played by Alana Hynes; and Rajah, played by Iris Morrisey. "Aladdin Jr." is filled with classic songs with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, including Lanigan's favorite "One Jump Ahead," Case's favorite "Friend Like Me" and Meystrik's favorite "A Whole New World." However, new songs, expanded characters and high thrills make this an enjoyable adaptation to a popular story for young performers like those at St. Joseph Cathedral School.
"There are some differences like there is no Abu in some of the scenes. It is downsized for a smaller cast because it is junior high and not as long," Stratman said. "For them an hour show is a lot. At high school, they can handle an hour and a half or two-hour show. As a result, we get a lot of families with young children, and those kids love it and also want to be stars just like the kids they are seeing on stage."
"They say you need a village to raise a child. You also need a lot of talented friends, like the lady who is our costume mistress. She designs and makes all these costumes (alongside her fellow seamstresses). We have friends who do amazing choreography," Thompson said. "It is a really wonderful community effort."
"We have lots of people that come and offer their expertise. Some work lots of fours and some work a few hours, but they are all wonderful at what they do and contribute to this show," Stratman added.
The process began in September and since January they have rehearsed "Aladdin Jr." Their talents have even been used during Helias Catholic High School's "Footloose" production, which took place earlier this year and utilized about 20 of the school's students. Stratman, the production team and the school are proud of the hard work the students have put forth to make this debut spring musical at the new fine arts center one to remember.
"They start here and they go on and do amazing things in theater. We helped to bring out their abilities and performance, and that is what it is all about. Watching those kids on stage," Stratman said with tears welling up in her eyes. "I'm crying just thinking about it. We are all so passionate about it, and they are too. We make it fun."
Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for ages five to 17 and free for children ages four and younger. They can be purchased at the school's front desk or at the door. For more information or to order tickets, call 573-635-5024.