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'A Whole New World' | Boys and Girls Clubs to present 'Aladdin' at Tennessee Theatre

Kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley have been practicing all summer in preparation for the variety show on July 28.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If you are ready to see some magic, the kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley are putting the finishing touches on their variety show next week.

It will be on the big stage at the Tennessee Theatre, with the play "Aladdin" as the main attraction.

Inside the theater room at Boys and Girls Clubs, magic comes to life. It's especially true this summer, as kids have been practicing their roles in their annual production.

Over two dozen kids in the play are tapping into their talents. Josh Smith is the theater teacher and the brains behind the scenes.

"Every summer, we get the opportunity to perform at the Tennessee Theatre, through a partnership with them, which is really generous, and we're really grateful for it," Smith said.

This is the second year for the variety show at the iconic downtown location. Last year, it was "Wizard of Oz."

"Aladdin is a really huge show with a lot of iconic parts and characters," Smith said. "I just knew based on my kids from this past school year that I had, that this was going to be the show that it's really going to connect with them and give them opportunities to shine."

The students are involved with every part of the production, from designing set pieces and costumes to developing the final product of the show.

"They were very excited that something that they built with their own two hands is going to be part of this," Smith said.

Two of the main characters, Aladdin and Abu, played by 12-year-old Gabrielle Sparks and 6-year-old Kayden, make rehearsing and remembering lines look easy.

"Practice is probably one of my favorite parts of coming to the Boys and Girls Clubs," Sparks said. "It's fun and it's easy, and it puts my uses to a good use. I have a lot of fun with it."

Keeping the arts as an option at the Boys and Girls Clubs is important to Bridget Jones, the vice president of development.

"Kids that come here, they find a safe space, they find really unique opportunities like the Youth Arts Initiative, and they find meaningful relationships," Jones said.

The Variety Show at the Tennessee Theatre on Thursday, July 28, puts that on display.

Behind the scenes, the theatre is opening its doors to allow these young actors and actresses an experience like no other. They can step into the spotlight and step food on a stage that has hosted incredible artists.

"Whether it's performing arts or visual arts, it's really part of a well-rounded education and a well-rounded exposure to what life is like and what there is out there for kids," said Becky Hancock, executive director of the Tennessee Theatre.

This is the second year the theatre has hosted the group and Hancock says it was an easy decision to welcome them back. 

"The smiles on the faces, the pride in both the kids and the parents and the grandparents and the family members who came to see those children perform. That was priceless," Hancock said.

The variety show will include a number of other opportunities for the kids to showcase their talents.

"So obviously, we're having Aladdin, that's our feature performance, but in addition, we're gonna have some music videos, dance ensembles, guitar ensembles, choir performances and it'll be a great night," Jones said.

The staff and kids hope the seats will be filled, and are encouraging the community to come out and support them. The show is free and the seats are first-come, first-served starting at 5:30 p.m.

"They should come out and see these kids so they can see what actually happens behind the blue doors," Smith said. "You know, it's not all just sports and whatever else, there's really great work happening here."

Through high-flying effects and hard work, it's sure to be an experience the kids will never forget.

"You know, I think it's a memory that's going to last a lifetime for these kids," Hancock said.

All the money raised goes straight back into the Boys and Girls Clubs.

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