By India John
This semester I was lucky enough to be in a class that went to Aldrich Middle School every Thursday as part of a mentoring program. The program was incredibly rewarding, getting to know and to work with a 6th grader one-on-one, to see the improvement and to share those bonding moments. Potentially the best part of the whole experience, however, was the walk down the hallway with my fellow mentor Dan O’Brien. Not because his company was particularly rewarding (let’s be honest here…) and not because I love the nostalgia of walking down a middle school hallway (that’s a lie, Montessori middle school doesn’t believe in hallways or lockers), but because from the first glance we knew that we’d end up together, in the auditorium of Aldrich Middle, watching their production of “Mulan Jr.”
Since 1998 Disney’s “Mulan” has been a childhood classic. Children have idolized the film centered around the warrior woman for more than a decade, quoting Mushu (“I don’t do that tongue thing”), fighting off Huns, and of course, singing all the classics (“Be a man” is still one of the most popular songs I hear at college). For Aldrich Middle, however, the worship went beyond just quoting lines and belting out songs when with friends (or alone). Let me tell you, I thought that the original “Mulan” was golden, but that was before seeing Aldrich Middle School’s rendition of “Mulan Jr.” Which was platinum.
The first thing that you may be wondering: ” ‘Mulan Jr.?’ What the heck is ‘Mulan Jr.?’ Did she have a kid or something?” No. She didn’t. “Mulan Jr.” is, in fact, just “Mulan” with an extra song and some ancestors that never fudgin’ leave, I s’pose as true ancestors are want to do. Yup, that’s right, all the same classic songs, some extra one-liners thrown in, and the occasional jazz-hands and you’ve got “Mulan Jr.” Now I know that most of you know “Mulan” by heart, so we don’t need to go through every god-blessed moment, but Aldrich Middle put a few extra spins on our favorite classic.
First of all, they did not manage to find a small, travel-sized dragon to play Mushu. Instead, they chose Roxy, the sassy, class clown who was clearly thrilled to have such a goofy role to play. The highlight of her performance? Having a pull-down screen with a Chinese character on it snap up behind her while she was singing and not batting an eye. Impressive for a 12-year-old.
Another major pro to the middle school version of “Mulan” is puberty, or rather a lack thereof. Shang, the hunky army captain whom Mulan eventually falls for, was played by a fairly awkward, tall, gangly boy whose high-pitched, tuneless rendition of “I’ll make a man out of you” was incredibly ironic. It’s a good thing that Dan and I were sitting in the back, out of sight and earshot of any potential parents.
Though incredibly unintentionally amusing to watch, making me incredibly happy that middle school is behind me, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance. No lines were forgotten (that we could tell), the students were enthusiastic about their roles, the stage crew was also entirely student run, and the girl who played Mulan had quite the set of pipes on her. It was exactly the entertainment I was looking for in a middle school play. I strongly recommend that everyone who’s going to be around for senior week celebrate by going to the Kids Fun and Drama production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” at First Presbyterian Church May 13-15. It might not be “Mulan,” but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be there.