note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
For centuries, children have dreamed about genies, magicians, flying on magic carpets, castles with minarets, magic lamps and rings that make all wishes come true.
At Wheelock Family Theatre’s Boston star-studded production of Scheherazade’s tale, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” written by James Norris, that magic, glitzy fairy tale springs to life, surrounding the audience, gleefully delighting little ones.
For adults, it seems almost superfluous for veteran actors Dan Dowling Jr. to portray the materialistic sultan and Larry Coen to ham it up as the evil, greedy magician, but the two award winners know precisely how to extract every ounce of meanness, plotting, and menacing power, mixed with the sultan’s loving fatherly concern. Tiara-topped toddlers and their adventurous, inquisitive siblings love it when the entourage of actors parade through or pause in the aisles, nearby.
Several eye-popping special effects mesmerize youngsters throughout the production. The theater emanates with oooooohs and aaaaaaahs as the Genie of the Ring (John Davin) arises from the floor in a puff of smoke, his voice booming, as he’s surrounded by several elfin slave aides, to fulfill the evil magician’s and Aladdin’s commands. Equally jaw-dropping is when the beautiful genie of the lamp (Kortney Adams) descends partially on a gold-and-green trapeze, to grant Aladdin’s wishes.
Costume designer Melissa Miller adds glitz to the show, with her brightly-hued glittery veils, turbans, and costumes; while John R. Malinowski’s lighting creates rosy sunsets, golden sunrises, indigo evenings and dark gray swirling smoke and winds.
And Nathan Leigh provides magical nuances with his music and sounds.
Children also delight in the carefree antics of Aladdin (whom eighth-grader Sebastian Kim blithely portrays) and his newfound friend, Princess Badroulbadour, whom her father affectionately calls Adora. Pretty Samantha Boucher as Adora and Sebastian frolic with delicious abandon together, whether they’re cart-wheeling across the stage or running hand-in-hand. They both like to run away - Adora from her boring, lonely castle, and Aladdin from his poverty and mundane existence, where he lives in a tailor shop, with his mother (Grace Napier).
Besides all the magic, mystical smoke and mirrors, little theatergoers enjoy Wheelock’s comic props, such as Aladdin’s diminishing image as he flies on a magic carpet, and the veteran actors’ hyperbolic actions and expressions.
For us older theatergoers, it’s enjoyable to watch youngsters sit, wide-eyed, their heads rotating and bobbing, to see every stunt occurring in front of, around, and near them. Wheelock’s “Aladdin” provides them with their own magic carpet ride, into the world of make-believe, where dirty old lamps and gaudy big rings aren’t what they seem.
BOX INFO: Two-act, 1-3/4 hour show, written by James Norris, directed by set designer James P. Byrne, appearing at the Wheelock Family Theatre, 200 the Riverway, Boston, now through May 15. Showtimes are Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30,$25,$20; pajama parties, $15. Call the Box Office at 617-879-2300 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.WheelockFamilyTheatre.org.