Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi


music and lyrics by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice,
based on the Walt Disney Pictures animated film “Aladdin”
directed by Michael Diefenbach
choreographed by Shannah Kane
musical direction by Annemarie Alvarez

Aladdin … Evan Rhoda
Jasmine … Jessica Naimy
Genie … Michael J. Borges
Jafar … Carson Shelton
Iago … Chris Kingston
Carpet … Lorianne Major
Narrator … Justin D’Amour
Aladdin’s Mom … Megumi Haggerty
Sultan … Robert LoBrutto
Head Guard … Constantine Giannakopoulos
Guard … Michael J. Sgrignari
Prince Achmed; Guard … Kevin Pasdon
Harem Girls … Katy Rosin; Stephanie Moskal; Jaime Arin Swartz
Gazeem … Herve Tennessee
Jasmine u/s; Featured Dancer … Nimisha Kashyap
Aladdin u/s; Ensemble … Gideon Bautista
Jafar u/s; Ensemble … Justin McCoubry
Ensemble … Lindsay Hurley; Wendy O’Byrne; Christine Glowacki;
Sarah-Allison Lohr; Lesley Anderson

Ever since the Vokes Players brought a train onto their tiny stage, I’ve come to believe that community theatres can do just about anything, these days, in keeping up with their professional brethren --- how the times have changed (for the better) from my own community theatre days, three decades ago! --- one needn’t feel, now, that one is slumming while sitting amongst neighborhood audiences who have come to cheer on their friends and relatives, onstage; granted, one’s playgoing standards must be readjusted but one is often rewarded with tomorrow’s performers, a director who knows how to bring out the best in them, and inventive ways of working around a shoestring budget. The Godief Theatrical Productions’ production of DISNEY’S ALADDIN: A MUSICAL SPECTACULAR is a delightful example, a sweet alternative to nocturnal holiday shopping, and worth the trek. Like the Disney animated film, this ALADDIN is more razzmatazz than Arabian Nights but when the hero asks his audience what should he do with his newly-found lamp and everyone cries, “Rub it!”, the stage version harkens back, whether it knows it or not, to old-time English pantomime, a genre with its own fairy tale settings, topical jokes and transformations.

“Youth, Triumphant” could well be the battle cry at the Winthrop Playhouse, beginning with Michael Diefenbach, who works energetic wonders with his “round” actors to Timothy Greenway’s economically clever settings which include a nifty magic carpet ride, to the spunky ensemble who perform to a pre-recorded soundtrack and dole out the whimsy with infectious glee. (Amazingly, the evening flies by without an intermission.) Evan Rhoda’s bland, bright presence makes him a perfect storybook Aladdin (here, plot-sweep rather than character detail is demanded); Jessica Naimy is a stolid Jasmine but sings prettily enough; Michael J. Borges’ blue-skinned Genie, endlessly morphing into this or that, may be a Class Clown on a sugar-high but never raises the specter of the role’s original manic creator, and a stunning, cat-eyed beauty named Justine D’Amour opens the show before disappearing into the choral ranks. On the night I attended, I was also amazed at the number of teens and twentysomethings in the house; granted, their woof-woof cheers were neighborhood sounds but the important thing is that they were inside a theatre, on their own free will, and should they continue to sample live entertainment in and beyond their own community, ah, the wonders that await them!

"Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular" (7 - 17 December)
The Winthrop Playhouse, 60 Herman Street, WINTHROP, MA
1 (978) 420-2691

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide