Theater : Oak Bluffs students and teachers take the stage
On Friday night, November 13, the Oak Bluffs School was transformed into the Arabian city of Agrabah. The Oak Bluffs School production of "Aladdin" was filled with colorful costumes, bright lights, dancing, singing, and even a flying carpet. It was a collaborative effort among students and faculty. Directed by teaching assistant Shelagh Smilie, with musical direction by music teacher Brian Weiland, the production left the opening night crowd enthralled.
Supported by a cast of approximately 40 talented students, impressive performances were turned in by eighth-grader Sam Permar in the title role of the dashing Aladdin, eighth-grader Sarah Dawson as the romantic Princess Jasmine, and sixth-grader Oliver Carson summoning laughter as the Genie.
It was Oliver's first acting experience, and he performed as if he was a seasoned actor. After the show, he said the most enjoyable part of the preparation was when he memorized the past of the Genie, and didn't have to refer to the script. "It's really when the kids get to soar, " Ms. Smilie said, adding that she was thoroughly impressed with her students, many of whom are new-comers to the drama department.
When kindergarten teacher Anne Davey, who provided piano accompaniment, passed by, Oliver called out to her, "You were awesome. I couldn't have done my acting without you." Then he wandered off to count the seats in the auditorium to find out how many attended the sold-out performance - as it turned out, more than 350 came for opening night.
Paul Robinson, another eighth-grader, played the part of Jafar, the ill-intentioned advisor to the Sultan. As a veteran of the school's productions, he said, "The best part is performing for the school, and getting to know the other people in the show."
Liam Weiland, a fifth-grader, was one of the narrators. "The best part was Shelagh," he said. "She is by far, by far, the best director. She doesn't yell at anyone, even if they make mistakes."
To Ms. Smilie, opening night is always the biggest thrill of the whole process. "When that curtain opens, the kids can either freeze, or shine," she said. "Tonight, they all shined." The musical finale, "A Whole New World," resulted in a standing ovation.
With a cast of predominantly first-time actors, Ms. Smilie was particularly impressed by their energy. "This was the best singing ensemble I have ever worked with," she said. "You let them loose and they go wild. You give them this opportunity and it overwhelms them, and they love it."
Principal Laury Binney, a 13-year theater production veteran at the school, played a convincing Sultan. "Drama incorporates all elements of the learning equation into one focus," he said. "After the rehearsal process, to be on stage with them and watch them navigate their way, it is truly magical."
E. Conor Hagen is a freelance writer who lives in Edgartown.