Aladdin Jr. opens Friday at Onekama

ONEKAMA — When the Manistee County three school play ended last year director Amanda Harthun said the students already began talking  about what they wanted to do this year, and the consensus was the musical “Aladdin Jr.”

Jasmine played by Faith Kidd and Aladdin who is portrayed by Luca Leffew sing a song in the musical Aladdin Jr. that opens at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Onekama Consolidated Schools Cafetorium. The musical features students from the Bear Lake, Brethren and Onekama Consolidated Schools.

Harthun said that it is a musical that combines great music, brightly colored costumes and plenty of energy which is a perfect fit for a school theatrical production. However, the Broadway version of “Aladdin” wasn’t available, but they were able to get “Aladdin Jr.” which is a slightly shorter version.

The show opens at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Onekama Consolidated Schools cafetorium and continues on Saturday at 7 p.m. on Saturday and again on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at the school offices.

This is the 13th consecutive show students from Bear Lake, Brethren and Onekama Consolidated Schools have  combined forces on producing a play. The popularity of the program is still evident by the fact that 42 students from the three schools are in this year’s show.

Kaleva Norman Dickson/Bear Lake dual superintendent Marlen Cordes said the program has been a great one for all the schools.

“That was one of the things that (former superintendent Greg Webster) started years ago and it filled a void that we all had in our curriculum,” said Cordes. “Amanda and her people have continued to run with that and put on a professional performance every year. Those kids are doing some other things at school as well, but they are anxious to sign up for it every year.”

This year the cast has several first-time actors in it who are getting their first taste of being on the stage.

“We have a really young cast this year, as we have a big mix as we have some seniors and juniors with plenty of experience and have a lot of leadership,” said Harthun. “We have a few that are developing and a fairly large group of younger students this year and that has been quite a mix.”

Harthun said they traditionally have an older cast. Last year they graduated quite a few and there are more that will be going out this year.

“So it is has been fun with the younger students, as they have so much enthusiasm and are excited to be a part of it,” said Harthun. “We do the school shows (presentation to students from all three schools) and asked for a show of hands from the kids about how many of them came into the show because of that and it was most of them.”

Shown is a scene from the musical Aladdin Jr. that is being put on this weekend by students from Bear Lake, Brethren and Onekama Consolidated Schools.

Students with leading roles in the show are Luca Leffew (Aladdin), Megan Gydesen (Babkak), Alliyah Torrey (Omar), Taylor Merrill (Kassim), Curtis Kennedy (Genie), Magnolia Madsen (Iago), Leah Nelson (Isir), Bella Leffew (Manal), Jenna Bromley (Rajah), Trevor Eisenlohr (Jafar), Faith Kidd (Jasmine), Randi Nelson (Magic Carpet), John Evans (Razoul) and Thanh Nhan “Pax” Nguyen.

Harthun said there are some new faces behind the scenes as well this year. Serving as the music director is John Storms-Rohm while choreography is being done by Kaylan Fitch. Costumes are being handled by Kathryn Mathieu, Jody Guerne and Casey Granada.

The set design was handled by Kelly Gydesen while set construction was done by Kristy and Gary Hayes. Sound technicians are Byron Joseph and Jacob Fitch and lighting is being done by Paul Cunningham.

The Aladdin Jr. story and music is something that audiences of all ages are going to enjoy.

“What I find so wonderful and compelling about the score for Aladdin Jr. is how exquisitely they matched the music with the story,” said Harthun. “From the Middle Eastern melodies that evoke a sense of magic and

The entire cast from Aladdin Jr. take a moment to pose during a rehearsal. This is the 13th years the three school play has been taking place.

mystery; to jazzy, cabaret-style tunes that create a fun and joyful ambience.”

However, Harthun said long-time fans of the show will notice something different this year in the show.

“Rather than using a live orchestra like we did in the past, and we have some great local musicians, this production features a recorded music,” said Harthun. “It is played by an ensemble consisting of professional Broadway musicians. Though many of us in the cast felt a tinge of disappointment at the absence of a live band it gave us the opportunity to focus our musical time on developing our singing which has paid off.”

The show will feature musical numbers like “One Jump Ahead,” “These Palace Walls,” “Friend Like Me,” “Prince Ali,” “A Whole new World,” and “High Adventure.”

Harthun said she couldn’t be prouder of the way the cast has come together and overcome a lot of obstacles in the process.

“Our student performers worked especially hard this year, but even with the scheduling challenges brought on by weather, sports, illness and of course school work, we were able to assemble as a cohesive team team and put together a show we are proud of,” said Harthun.


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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