The Shmooze

'Aladdin' With a Jewish Twist

By Masha Leon

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Hundreds of parents with children in tow — some in strollers — were rushing along 42nd Street to make the March 9 matinee curtain at the New Amsterdam Theatre for the preview/benefit of Disney’s musical comedy “Aladdin.”

The marquee featured the logo Hebrew Charter School Center and the repeating zipper message — which could be seen from Times Square, which proclaimed: “Todah Rabah! Thank You For Supporting 1000 Children In Our Classrooms Around The Country.”

“We’ve filled 1,500 seats!” beaming event co-chair Sara Berman told me as I came down the aisle.

Photo by Karen Leon.

A quick hello to event chairman Michael Steinhardt and educator Charlotte Frank whose credentials include Sr. V.P., McGraw-Hill Education Research and Development. The buzz was intense as parents settled kids in their seats and ushers were bringing in booster seats. All went silent as the curtain rose on an Arabian Nights spectacle that had adults laughing at double entendres and kids delighted by the physicality of the production. Throughout three hours — not a baby cried!

A storyline with a moral, “Aladdin” has gorgeous girls, sword swallowers, stunning sets, including a gasp-eliciting flying carpet. Dazzled by the costumes, I wondered who had the sequins concession?

But it is Adam Jacobs as the handsome hottie Aladdin who energizes the production. Basically the story line is of a boy wanting his family to be proud of him, which had the parents in the audience kvelling as he sang “Proud of Your Boy.”

Princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed) is a princess who refuses to be kept down and whose feminist manifesto is very much beyond the harem walls. Full bodied acrobatic James Monroe Iglehart portrays the Genie with such unstoppable energy his agility leaves you breathless.

Opulent, with pyrotechnics and stagecraft that elicited 1000-voiced “oohs” and “ ahhs” the production includes a cha-cha montage, a Follies Bergere spectacle (Las Vegas version), a Marx Bros. spoof, and a nod to Busby Berkeley’s “42nd Street.”

With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and additional lyrics by Chad Beuelin the production includes an excerpt by Stephen Schwartz and a “Mambo” by Leonard Bernstein. This upbeat musical concludes with a dazzling Disneyesque hora performed by the full cast.

An HCSC brochure at each seat explained the schools’ imperative “…to weave the study of Hebrew language and history and culture of Israel and its immigrant communities into a robust educational program…. [to] embody true diversity. Our students emerge as global citizens fully bilingual and deeply knowledgeable about the United States, Israel and the world.”

Opened in Brooklyn in 2009, HCSC serves nearly 500 students from all economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds with schools in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Harlem and California on the horizon.


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