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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2019 1 month ago

A whole new world

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“Aladdin Jr.” is coming to the Maxey Community Center in east Winter Garden.
by: Hannah Swayze News Editor

Take flight on a magic carpet ride this weekend as the East Winter Garden Neighborhood Alliance presents “Aladdin Jr.” at the Maxey Community Center. 

Each year, the Maxey Community Center hosts the summer musical for the community. The house is packed for each show, with family and community members coming out to see the performance.

The annual production first kicked off in 2015 as just an experiment with only 12 students. Now, more than 50 children are involved throughout the weeks-long programs during the summer — singing, acting, dancing, working on the crew and taking part in nearly every other aspect of the stage production.

Ruth Berlus, associate director of neighborhood ministries at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, said that so many people have shown up for performances in the past that she had to get smaller chairs so more people could fit into the auditorium. 

“Our programming is different from any theater and any dance group,” Berlus said. “It’s not about the production. It’s not about the perfection. It’s literally about the person.”

Berlus said the program is all about creating opportunities for the children and having a musical that is by the community, and for the community. 

Trenton Bryant, 12, is an upcoming seventh-grader in east Winter Garden who will portray the villain of the story: Jafar. This summer marks his fifth year participating in the summer musical with old and new friends. 

“You create a bond with everybody that’s in the play,” Trenton said. “You create a bond with them and so it’s like a relationship. You have a family relationship and you have a connection with a lot of people.”

For many of the children — whether they knew each other before the show or not — they consider the rest of the cast friends. 

“I love how everyone is together and how we work together,” said Zaileen Cosme, who plays Isir.

Zaileen also said she’s learned a lot from being in the musical.

“I’ve learned how to breath and project my voice and also not to be shy when you’re in (front of) others,” she said. “That was one thing that really threw me off when I had big audiences.”

The creative team behind the show includes Ke'Lee Pernell as the director, Andrea Whitman high-schoolers Destani Thomas and Aliyah Bryant as student assistant directors. 

Hannah Swayze is the News Editor at the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer. She is former staff writer of the Johnson City Press in Johnson City, Tennessee. She is a graduate of East Tennessee State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in media...

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