A Whole New World of fun at Children’s Theater
Posted on 27 Sep 2010 by Mitch Metz
Disney’s Aladdin flies onto the McColl Family Theater stage, and brings with it, huge entertainment for children of all ages! We’ve seen the 1992 Disney film, some of us around 2,000 times, so when these actors take the stage, there are some pretty big pointy shoes to fill. The kids are all expecting to see and hear exactly what they already know. This cast not only carried the torch admirably, they actually gave us more to love. Running now through October 24th, you will thoroughly enjoy this live performance of the Disney classic!
Outside the theater doors, prior to their opening, I could already feel the anticipatory giddiness of the 50/50 mix of theater patrons over and under 4 foot tall. Jumping, running, playing… and that was just the moms and dads!
The audience takes their seats, looking at a large and simple stage, with a vendor’s cart in the center, spotlight reflecting off trinkets of all kinds. Just perfect for little eyes to gaze upon, wondering if in the small pile of goods, there may be a lamp of some sort, but we learn from reading our Family Play Guide these are also, objects from previous productions at the theater. Very cool. It’s the attention to detail, such as giving the kids something to see and read and talk about with parents while awaiting the start of the show, that has made Children’s Theater so very successful! Aladdin kicks off their 63rd season, so yes, they’re doing something right.
The show begins with a narrator (Olivia Edge) telling us the tale, and sharing some information about Agrabah. Olivia’s beautiful smile and kind eyes draw the kids in right away as someone they can trust to tell them the story. She comes back, every so often, to update us, and each time delivers a decent tune. Intentional or not, she never shines so brightly as to take away from the rest of the story, simply delivering news as a good narrator should.
The marketplace has all sorts of characters, including a trio of Harem Girls (Sarah Borst, Eva Noblezada, Rachel Tate) who could actually sing and dance quite well. Voices were strong and in key, and dance steps were flawless throughout each production number. Some of the boys struggled, but choreographer Ron Chisholm did a good job of hiding them behind the more talented performers.
Then the fun begins, as the marketplace starts to bustle. Our hero Aladdin (Erik N. D’Esterre) appears, clad in trademark vest and hat, accompanied by the cute and lovable monkey Abu (Caroline Farley). Erik is a great Aladdin, with a very likable cuteness the audience takes to immediately. He moves well on stage, and is adequate in the musical numbers. His acting is great for the kids, but for a more sophisticated theater pallet, is a bit weak. Caroline however, displays some real ability for performing, although as a monkey that’s pretty easy… I mean, everything is better with a monkey, right? Her comedic mimics were well placed and well timed, not an easy thing to do for a 5th grader in front of a packed theater!
Which leads us right into the person who made that possible, Director Stephen Gundersheim. All the actors performed at a high level. Not once did I get the sense of bumbling or stumbling through a scene. Everything flowed well, and moved quickly. Very well done sir.
It’s at the marketplace when Aladdin first meets Princess Pickles… I mean, Jasmine (Cassandra Howley Wood). Cassandra once agains shows Charlotte audiences she is one of the rising stars in the area, showing off an amazing voice, and simple honest acting. Not a demanding role, she still nailed it, and was beautiful, as all the young girls in the audience dreamed of being a princess, just like her!
A trio of Princes (Alex Noto, Nicholas Delgadillo, Anthony Sims) ham it up as geeks, the Sultan (Jake Yara) is suitably sultan-ly, and Razoul (Jay Adriel Watkins) delivers his lines well and dances too.
Jafar (Mark Sutton) and Iago (Nicia Carla) are a wonderful team of evil-doers in the show, and while Mark does his best to get the audience to dislike his nasty character, Nicia is far too funny and energetic for that to happen. Nicia plays the role of the parrot exactly like one should when dealing with kids in the audience. She spoke loudly, and with just enough silliness for all of us to enjoy. Great chemistry here between the two.
While trapped in a cave of treasures, Abu is teased by the Magic Carpet (Sam Faulkner). Sam is fantastic as brief comic relief, and works very well with Caroline. Just two kids goofing around on stage, being silly, but it totally worked. Professionals could not have done a better job.
Of course, in the cave is where Aladdin finds the lamp, and with a little help from the kids in the audience, decides to give it a rub. We’re not sure what kind of Genie we’re going to get, but are pretty sure it won’t be Robin Williams. Jalila A. Bowie plays the silly and energetic Genie admirably. She is extremely comfortable on stage, and really knows how to get the kids to listen, laugh, and participate.
One highlight I must mention is Aladdin and Jasmine flying on the magic carpet above the clouds. Definitely the visual of the show, and the scene all the children will have in their dreams afterward. Just beautiful.
The show is performed without an intermission, thank goodness, as they’ve learned you can’t let kids get up and run wild, then expect to settle them down again. Sets were quite good, costumes a bit below par, music was solid though, and overall the audience absolutely loved it. I recommend grabbing your kids (or a neighbor’s kids if you don’t have any) and heading over to Children’s Theater. One of the surprises for me was how well behaved the youngsters in the audience were, and how they all simultaneously broke into song with the actors. It was my first time there, and while not a typical show for a 50 year old single man, I had a great time, and will go back for each and every production this year. Hope to see you all out at the McColl Family Theater.
Photos by Donna Bise