Children learn about themselves while performing on stage

From left: Kurt Schlageter as Aladdin, Danielle Bergot as the Genie, and London Henry as Princess Jasmine in TheaterFun’s “Aladdin Jr.” Photo by Marty Cheek

By Marty Cheek

It’ll be a whole new world for many South Valley children who will step on stage for the first time with TheaterFun’s production of “Aladdin Jr.”

The children’s show is a one-act musical adapted from the 1992 Disney animated classic “Aladdin,” which is an adaptation of the folk tale of a street boy who finds a magic lamp and releases a genie. The production runs about 80 minutes and opens for five shows Oct. 27-30 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse.

Christopher High School student Kurt Schlageter, 16, performs in the title role. This is his first time performing in a theatrical production. He felt astonished when he learned he got the starring role.

“I find playing him is amazing,” he said. “I’ve always loved ‘Aladdin’ since I was a kid. The main role is a challenge, but I pulled through and I’m very happy.”

His musical talent impressed Carol Romo, the show’s director and founder of TheaterFun.

“I like to write songs and play instruments and I thought this would be a great way to open myself up to a unique experience,” Schlageter said.

An aspect of Aladdin’s character is that he survives by using his wits to get out of trouble, and is not necessarily a physical action hero.

“At the beginning of the show, he’s more of a street rat. He’s struggling to survive,” Schlageter said. “I find that incredible, because in other shows, you don’t have that.”

When he meets the Genie after rubbing the lamp, he makes a wish and becomes Prince Ali. “It kind of changes his ego around, making him feel all confident,” he said of the transformation from a rogue into royalty. “But he gets that life lesson that having everything isn’t really having everything. He learns the more you have, the more you want. And I find that lesson really encouraging.”

Britton Middle School student London Henry, 12, plays Princess Jasmine, who is unhappy being forced to stay in the palace all the time. She seeks freedom from a royal life by finding adventure among the streets and meeting ordinary but interesting people.

“I relate to her a lot. I feel a lot of the time I can’t really express myself because I feel there’s a lot of things going on that people don’t know about,” Henry said. “People can make assumptions about me, or Jasmine, and think ‘Oh, she has the perfect life,’ but that’s not true. There’s always something going on.”

She encourages children to come to the show for the pure entertainment escapism aspect.

“It will be very fun to watch,” she said. “I feel like if people come and watch the show, it’ll give them a break from everything else that’s going on in their lives.”

And she encourages children who enjoy watching the show to consider getting into acting themselves. “Theater is a very fun community. You don’t have to worry about being judged. That’s where people want you to be different, not just like everyone else. It’s a very supportive community.”

Charter School of Morgan Hill student Danielle Bergot, 10, enjoys playing the Genie because he is a fun-loving magical lunatic who adds a lot of laughter to the story with his oversized ego.

“It’s an important role because you can’t have ‘Aladdin’ without the Genie,” she said. “He grants Aladdin all his wishes and makes him become the prince and that’s how the whole thing begins.”

Acting is an excellent way for young people to discover themselves through a group effort, she said.

“I think it’s a very good opportunity to  express yourself and learn all about acting,” she said.

Director Carol Romo sees children learn to work well with others when they perform on stage in her shows.

“A lot of these kids are knee-high to a grasshopper, and this is their first time on stage,” she said. “And they’re learning the rules. They’ve formed a wonderful ensemble. I’m so proud of them.”

The TheaterFun “Aladdin Jr.” Cast

Logan Abulhosn, Sienna Amm, Miles Avila, Arie Babayan, Hannah Babayan, Adeline Beltran, Joana Beltran, Yvonne Beltran, Emma Bennett, Isabella Berg, Danielle Bergot, Maeve Breyta, Michaela Butsch, Max Cale, Briar Clark, Cora Lynn Cockayne, Juliana Cruz, Abigail Devlin, Jonathan Dominguez, Hazel Frederick, Evan Frederick, Katherine Frederick, Benjamin Frederick, Titus Fulk, Leah Fulk, Layla Fulk, Abby Garica, Sophie Giamanco, Jacqueline Harris, London Henry, Alaina Howard, Penelope Jachimowicz, Kyle LoBue-Thompson, Mateo Lovato, Mason Miller, Niky Murphy-Brecheen, Izzy Murphy-Brecheen, Dallin Nielson, Ranji Sathianathan, Holden Scharer, Kurt Schlageter, Athena Sinha, Tiffany Torres, and Kenney Wu.