Houston Elementary to stage a magical musical trip

by Len Lear
Posted 3/14/24

The Henry H. Houston School’s production of “Aladdin Kids” is a case study of what kind of magic can happen when a committed teacher gets an entire community involved.

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Houston Elementary to stage a magical musical trip


The Henry H. Houston School’s production of the musical “Aladdin Kids,” which is being presented on March 14 and 15, is a case study of what kind of magic can happen when a committed teacher gets an entire community involved in a neighborhood school project. 

Helen Hoskins, the school's music teacher and the show's director, is in her second year at the school and this is her second musical production. But she’s not just the music teacher. Hoskins is also the person who decided that the theater program should be ambitious enough to reach out and secure the help of  Mt. Airy’s repertory theater company, Quintessence.

“They could not have been more cooperative,” Hoskins said. “They said they'd try to get a grant to pay for the production, and they did get one from Elfant Pontz Properties. Daniel Ciba, who was with Quintessence last year, helped get it for our last production, and Quintessence got it for us again this year.”

Hoskins arranged for the students to see professional productions at Quintessence – “The Little Prince” in December “Mary Poppins” last year. “That encourages them, to see how much fun the production is for the cast and the audience,” Hoskins said. 

The connection has evolved into a partnership that’s working well enough to be a potential model for other schools. More than a quarter of the school’s 420 students are involved in the production this year along with the entire Home & School Association. Families for Houston helped raise money, and at least 30 parents are stepping up as volunteers.

“It is a real privilege for us to be able to help the kids at Houston School,” said Adam Pelta-Pauls, director of education at Quintessence Theatre. “It's a lovely partnership. We are so happy to give these kids professional knowledge and turn their performance into something special. Eventually, we would like to expand the program into all the public schools in this part of the city.”

In addition to the 50 students who will be on stage, students also are involved in everything needed to produce a show like this one – props, costumes, and set design. The stage crew consists of 40 to 50 students working with art teacher, Shaunia Bronson, to make props and sets. Posters and programs are also created by students, under the direction of sixth-grade teacher Lauren McDonald. Cynthia Skripak, a neighbor and retired pastor who doesn't even have children in the school, is making all the costumes. 

Hoskins, who was a music major at the University of Indiana and Guilford College in  North Carolina, is a native of an artistic community in Washington, D.C. 

Hoskins also credits Principal LeRoy Hall Jr., who has been leading the West Mt. Airy elementary school since 2014, with understanding what a program like this can do for a school. Under Hall’s leadership, the school has made significant gains in academic performance, for both reading and math. 

“If you build it, they will come,” Hall said in an earlier interview. “If we build a quality school, people will want to put their kids there.”

Tickets to the show are $5. More information at 215-400-3490. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com