The always ambitious Performing Arts Department at Logan-Rogersville High School presents Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.” this weekend and next, for a total of six performances. After opening Friday night the 10th, the production runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00pm as well as Saturday matinees at 3:00 at the high school, 8225 E Farm Road 174, now through November 18. Two of the production’s principals, Carly Katzin (Jasmine) and Jackson Samuel (Aladdin), visited our studios Friday morning along with the show’s co-director and musical director, Rebecca Barringer.
I said “ambitious” a moment ago, because even though “Aladdin Jr.” is the approximately one-hour-long version of the original Broadway stage show intended for youth performers, it’s still a big undertaking: one, because rental of ANY Disney musical, including the “Junior” versions, is rather pricey; and two, because unlike most of the other area schools, Logan-Rogersville is committed to two weekends’ worth of performances, six in all, rather than doing three shows over a single weekend. Rebecca Barringer has a good reason for the lengthy run.
“We have zero budget with which to do our musicals. So, even though it’s costly to do a Disney production, we do really well with ticket sales. And so we find it’s really beneficial to do six shows across two weekends to be able to afford not only our (performance) rights, but also we spend quite a bit on sets and costumes. So we need those ticket sales to do a really professional production.”
The school system does provide monetary stipends for a set construction manager, art director (who paints the sets), and a costumer. “The materials we don’t have any kind of budget for—we have to pay for those out of our ticket sales.”
Barringer is quite proud of the department’s production values when staging musicals. “Our art teacher at the high school, Aaron Roten, does our artwork on the stage. And we have people come in and take photographs of our backdrops because they want to buy them, and they want to take them(!). He does an amazing, amazing job with the art.” Their costumer isn’t exactly in-house, but close: she’s the mother of Barringer’s co-director, the district’s Middle School art teacher Berea Flatness. Flatness herself choreographs the shows and does some work with the costumes, but her mother is the main costumer. “Almost all of our costumes are hand-made; there are a few that are purchased, a couple that are rented. But many are hand-made,” says Barringer. “We have beautiful, colorful, Arabian constumes.”
While the Disney Junior productions run not much over an hour in performance, Logan-Rogersville will take an intermission in “Aladdin Junior,” breaking the show into two distinct acts. “We want everyone to feel they’re getting their full ticket-price’s worth.”
Jackson Samuel, who plays Aladdin, is quite sold on the idea of a two-weekend run rather than just one. “It’s more difficult, but I enjoy it because I really stretching out the musical as long as I can! And I know several people that can come see it one weekend but not the other, so it works out.”
Samuel calls Aladdin “kind of a carefree character—he’s referred to as ‘street rat’ throughout the whole production. He doesn’t have a very good reputation. During the show he finds Genie, and he wants to win over the heart of Jasmine.” Aladdin pretends to be a prince—and when he’s found out, says Jackson Samuel, one of the show’s major themes is expressed: what matters is not what you seem to be on the outside, but what you really are on the inside.
Carly Katzin describes Jasmine as “very stubborn, strong-willed, and has a mind of her own. She doesn’t want her father to choose who she’s going to marry. She wants to be able to decide when, and who.” It’s a theme that runs through many of the contemporary Disney animated films that have been made into stage musicals. As co-director Rebecca Barringer adds, “The characters know what they want—and how to get it!”
After the manically inventive precedent set by the late Robin Williams, who voiced the character of Genie in the original animated film, how hard must it be to cast someone to play this part onstage? “I will tell you this, with 100 percent confidence,” declares Rebecca Barringer. “We have the best Genie around! We cast a female in this part, and she is phenomenal, and actually steals the show a couple of times.” (Which the part is designed to do, of course!) “Her name is Sophie Gregorofsky. She’s a freshman, she acts at Springfield Little Theatre quite a bit, and she gives 110 percent, 110 percent of the time! I can’t wait to see what she’s like when she’s a senior. And she’s the full package: acting, singing, dancing.”
It turns out that the musical-theatre troupe at Logan-Rogersville this school is mostly underclassmen. Carly Katzin is a junior, and Jackson Samuel is a sophomore. Rebecca Barringer says that a few years ago the department lost a “huge number” of seniors who graduated. “So we’re kind of in a re-building phase. We have a lot of young talent right now.” Playing Genie’s parrot Iago is freshman Colten Burney. In fact, the only senior among the principal cast is the villain Jafar.
Tickets are $5 adults, $8 adults, and available from the Logan-Rogersville High School office at 753-2813.