The torch has been passed and a new era of Wilson High School drama and music is here.

Randy Bowden, longtime Bruin drama teacher, retired at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. His departure meant that Wilson would need a new drama teacher for the following year.

"I knew after Randy left that I wanted to recruit Paula," Principal Sandy Blazer said. "So as soon as we needed to look for a teacher, I reached out."

As the new drama teacher standing in the Playhouse space, Paula Riley said that she's ready and excited to follow Bowden's Bruin legacy.  

"I'm happy to be here and to teach high school students for the first time," she said.

Her background before joining the Bruin team includes 25 years at Stanford Middle School as the school's drama and choir teacher. But long before that, she was one of Bowden's drama students at Wilson.

"It feels like I'm following in his footsteps here and I just want him to be proud of this performance," she said. "Me being in the Playhouse right now is like magic."

Aladdin at Wilson High

Wilson drama students practice during dress rehearsal.

Now, she's working with the Bruin high school students on their first musical performance of the school year, "Aladdin Jr."

The musical — which is based on the Disney film — features a few recognizable tunes, plenty of dance numbers and favorite Aladdin characters personified by the Wilson students.

And along with a new drama teacher, renovations to the Playhouse were completed just in time for the new school year as well.

New lights were installed, as well as a fresh coat of paint and refurbished seating. Structural updates to the building also included electrical and plumbing upgrades, a new fire alarm system and a strengthened roof. 

"It's great how everything has come together and how much work was done," Riley said. "It's a beautiful space."

As for the students, Riley added that she couldn't be prouder of their work so far. 

"They're doing so amazing and they're having a lot of fun," Riley said. "It's hard to pull this all together at the beginning of the school year, but the work really shows off their talent."

Now it's just a wait for showtime.

The Wilson High School drama team will debut the musical "Aladdin Jr." at 7 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 9, and Saturday, Nov. 10.

Tickets will be available at the door and are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Additionally there is one free, matinee concert for Long Beach Unified students. That's at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Students must wear their school T-shirts or spirit shirts for free entry.

For more information, go to instagram.com/wilsontheatrearts.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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