It’s a whole new world
BEAVER CREEK ” Disney’s classic tale of adventure, magic and teen love comes to life on the Vilar Center stage Saturday and Sunday when Vail Performing Arts Academy presents “Aladdin, Jr.”
Adapted from the animated movie, VPAA’s version captures the essence of the fantasy world of Agrabah and its many larger-than-life characters.
“The remarkable part is that there are 80 kids on stage and they range in age from 8-18. All the parts are played by students from all over the valley, and thanks to our top-shelf VPAA staff, the young actors all exceed expectations ” their own, ours and especially the audience’s,” Annah Scully, founder and executive producer of the VPAA, said. “Working with Broadway and Hollywood professionals, like our Director and Choreographer Colin Meiring, helps raise the bar and bring the kids to unimaginable levels of achievement. What they learn from performing like this is beyond theater. They are learning essential life skills, community consciousness and self-confidence.”
“Aladdin, Jr” is a fresh look at a classic tale, but features all the characters that families and children know and love, including Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Jafar, and The Genie. The VPAA version adds new twists with a team of slick, brash cable news reporters who drive the story as narrators. The allure of the Kasbah is captured on stage with exotic harem Girls dancing hypnotically with colorful, silk veils. In Argrabah, you’ll find market sellers and shoppers, menacing bumbling guards, street beggars and even the nonhuman characters ” Abu the monkey, Iago the parrot and the silent but expressive Magic Carpet.
“Each character contributes to the story, and there really are no small parts. The full cast is on stage during most of the show,” Meiring said. “What is most impressive is how this cast, with such diverse age groups (from elementary to high school), pulls off the musical and technical demands with a pure joy of performing, as well as mesmerizing talent.”
VPAA calls on industry leaders to teach kids about theater and produce a professional show. Musical Director Kim Denning directs the Children’s Chorale. The program’s acting coach Tony Mayes is a Broadway veteran and production manager from the American Tap Dance Foundation. Costumes for “Aladdin, Jr.” were designed by Janet Huntoon, and this year, the kids got to customize their turbans and bejewel their veils during rehearsals. Kris and Rich Cooper and their family designed the sets
“It’s our goal to provide a totally creative atmosphere and give each kid a chance to shine and be the best they can be,” Meiring added.
The star of the show is 16-year-old Sean Pack. Pack gives a professional quality performance as Aladdin, the street urchin seeking self-respect and romance. Molly Allard, also a junior, captures the graceful defiance of her character, Princess Jasmine, whose royalty has caged her from the real world. Allard is well-known for her years of advanced dance training, but “Aladdin, Jr.” has given Allard an opportunity to showcase her acting and singing talent.
“You can do whatever you want if you try,” Allard said.
“She was meant to be Jasmine,” 10-year-old cast member Haley Fort-Carty, added.
Ian Dunlieve, 16, weaves the evil Jafar into a fearful on-stage antagonist, with a splash of Money Python thrown in for good measure.
His side-kick, Iago the parrot, is played by 15-year-old Jake Dutmer, who counters Jafar’s cold bloodedness with fowl (foul) goofiness. Rebecca Richardson, a senior, is the Genie in the Lamp ” a character that allows her to show off her natural comic energy.
“This production is special to me because it gives me the opportunity to work with kids older and younger, and to explore my character through comedy improvisation,” Richardson said.
Sydney Idzikowski, 13, plays the Carpet and tells her story using only her facial expressions and hand gestures.
“There are no little parts,” Idzikowski said.
“Making the carpet fly was a real challenge,” Scully added. “I think the audience is going to be surprised and really enjoy what we came up with. I can’t tell you anymore than that, or I’d have to silence you.”
Another character limited to speechless action is played by 11-year-old Joey Cooper, who steals the show as Abu, the ever faithful, intelligent, bug-eating monkey.
“Joey watched ‘King Kong’ to get into his role and I think after the show he’s going have a hard time adjusting to walking without his knuckles,” Scully said.
“Aladdin, Jr.” takes place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Vilar Center. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling 845-TIXS.
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