Despite some later than expected last days of school, students in NEPA are finally free to enjoy their summer vacations. For many students, the final days of the school year bring with them both the serious business of final exams and the exuberant fun of year-end activities.

Students in 5th through 8th grades at the Fell Charter School traditionally close out the academic year with a play, and 2016-17 was no exception. For the first time ever, middle school students at the charter school performed a musical adaptation of “Aladdin” under the direction of music teacher Katie Talarico.

The performance took place on Saturday, June 3, in front of an audience comprised of Fell Charter School family members, school faculty and staff, members of the board, and friends from the community. Principal Mary Jo Walsh remarked, “Every year I always say it’s the best, but this year the students have pumped their hearts and souls into it. Our Genie is the best! Better than Broadway!”

The student actors were certainly enthusiastic, giving charismatic performances that soon had audience members laughing, cheering, and breaking into spontaneous rounds of applause. Narrator Julia Webb opened the play with a monologue that set the scene for the well-known tale of Aladdin, the beggar who finds a magic lamp which ultimately leads to his marriage to the beautiful Princess Jasmine.

Bruce Kohut in the title role and Hope Hampton as Jasmine complemented one another’s performances well, displaying natural interactions and excellent timing of their lines. Both actors had wonderful singing voices, with Hope’s lovely soprano stealing the hearts of the audience.

The villain of the show, Jafar, was played by Gabe Egan. Jafar’s costume, stage makeup, voice projection, accent, and body language elevated his skilled performance to a level of sinister excellence. Gabe displayed true professionalism as he suavely dealt with a snafu involving Jafar’s hat, never missing a beat while onstage.

Taylor Bambrick, as Genie, exhibited talented versatility as she danced, sang, and performed in a simple blue costume accented with a pair of fabulous gold shoes with the requisite curlicue toes. Jakob Wittenbreder filled the role of the Sultan admirably, showing a flair for understated comedic expression that served to lighten the mood even in tense or dramatic scenes. Rounding out the cast were Sean Reilly as Iago, Alice Davis as the Tiger God, and Leeora Galaydick as the Magic Carpet.

The choreographer for “Aladdin” was Jillian Jezuit, the school’s secretary. She utilized the talents of the dancers to the fullest, allowing them to demonstrate a range of movement and athleticism that one does not often see in a school play.

An interesting addition to the play was the inclusion of an entourage of actors escorting Aladdin out onto the floor where the audience was seated, a move that especially delighted the younger children in attendance because it gave them an up-close look at both the performers and their colorful costumes.

Hector Acosta, Autumn Campbell, Faith Hampton, Reina Maldonado, Nick McCord, Julia Devaney, Erika Hollis, Dustin Smith, and Michaela Rolison were dancers. Tehya Dietrich was dance captain. Students not appearing onstage were seated in the chorus and performed several musical numbers during the play.

Mrs. Talarico admits to being a bit nervous before the public performance of “Aladdin” because it was her first time directing this particular play, but she needn’t have worried. Despite its complexity and unfamiliarity to Mrs. Talarico, the students, and everyone else at the school who had a hand in it, the performance went smoothly. The enthusiasm of the students led to enjoyable and memorable performances, and, ultimately, to an appreciative and satisfied audience.