Something magical’s happening at Randall Elementary School.
One can see it after school every Tuesday and Thursday, in the multipurpose room.
This is where a group of about 30 Randall students, all 2nd- to 6th-graders, gather to rehearse for a big performance coming up at the end of May.
Since January, the group has been practicing their acting, singing, and dancing moves in preparation for performing the musical “Aladdin,” which is due to go up at Milpitas High School’s (MHS) theater.
None of the children have ever done a musical before. Despite that, each one shows up to rehearsal every week, ready to move, sing, and develop their talent.
“We’re doing this with Bay Area Children’s Theater. It’s a whole program through Disney,” said Leslie Singh, a Kindergarten teacher, who’s been working with the kids on the show’s choreography. “They want more schools to be doing musical theater.”
The Disney Musicals in Schools program is a Bay Area Children’s Theater initiative that exists to bring the arts to elementary schools in the region. Randall was accepted into the program, and has entered into a three-year commitment with the Oakland-based theater. Through the program, Randall is being gifted for the first year with the rights to “Aladdin,” as well as the scripts, director’s books, and music. They’re also receiving a grant of $1,000, which will go toward things like costumes.
Representatives come out from the theater company every Tuesday to train Singh and two other Randall teachers, Adelina Vargas and Julie Frost, on how to best work with the kids and get the production moving forward. With this support, this musical theater trio, which works together to produce and direct the show, is confident that they can pull off a production on their own come the next school year.
As a Title 1 school, Randall’s student majority comes from low-income households.
“Being low-income, a lot of our kids need a different outlet,” said Singh. “Sometimes it can be very hard when they’re struggling. A lot of the kids that ended up wanting to do the musical were struggling in class. But now they have to read their script and memorize their lines. So they’re reading without even realizing it.”
Randall boasts a Spanish Dual Immersion program across its T-K, Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade classes. The program was implemented in 2016; the idea is that over time, as each class moves up, all the school’s classes will eventually be Dual Immersion.
Inspired by the uniqueness of their school, Randall’s musica
One of the students, Jaye Hudson, a 5th-grader, was a little nervous thinking about their upcoming performances, but was also confident they’ll all do a good job: “This is very fun…You get to be yourself,” she said, when asked how she liked the rehearsal process.
Second-grader Josiah Delgado was onboard with Hudson’s comment, nodding while she spoke: “You also get to know people better,” he added.
As the kids rehearsed the song “Friend Like Me” onstage, Adelina Vargas gazed up at them. Her eyes shined with a sense of inspiration. This feeling was reflected in her words:
l theater team hopes to start putting on bilingual musicals in the future. Since they’re in the contract with the theater company and Disney, they must devote the first three years to English-speaking shows; however, after that contract’s up, they’ll have more artistic freedom.
“They’ve flourished so much,” said Vargas, who is in her third year as a Kindergarten teacher at Randall. “In their classrooms, they’re becoming more outspoken. Students who were having difficulty reading are here, singing with their scripts. It’s not just academic change, but there’s also the social-emotional part. They’re excited for Tuesdays and Thursdays. They’re happy to come to school.”
“Aladdin” will go up at MHS on May 31 at 5:30pm and 7pm. Tickets are $5, and can be purchased at the door. To purchase in advance, or learn more about the show, go to: Randall.musd.org