Directed and choreographed by Kate Howells, this year’s Middle School musical transported us, on a magic carpet to the Middle East. Opulent settings, radiant costumes, warm lighting: pink, red and orange hues enriched the stage. Audiences familiar with Howells’ work will know that she rejects the conventional and adds her own unique spin: opening with black and white clips of the cast in rehearsals. From the outset, the energy and pace underpinning the production was evident.
The premise of the tale is simple: street urchin, Aladdin (played with flair by Charlie, U4) meets Jasmine (princess at the royal household and soon to be married off). Frustrated by her father’s parental autocracy, Jasmine (Jemima, U4) strives for freedom with a modern feminist determination.
It’s an old tale and the patriarchal Sultan (Amirah, U4) asserts his rights. The battle between father and daughter ensues. Will true love prevail? Will fate intervene? Not fate exactly, but a Genie, whose humour and eccentricity were captured so ably by Charlotte (U4).
Indeed, the audience laughed out loud at so many comedic performances: Olivia (U4) as the supercilious Jafar, Belinda (U4) as the downtrodden yet prescient Iago and Kundai (U4) playing the ever munching Razoul. The princes too, strutted onto the stage exuding the sass of errant suitors.
The narrators swished their way along, filling in the gaps, raising questions, giving a sense of cohesion to the narrative. Close your eyes, listen to their voices and to the musical score. Sleepy Shropshire exists no more, Arabia encircles you.
What made this play work so well? The sense of inclusion. Every member of the chorus performed with expressive charm and passion, booming out the lyrics with aplomb!