BWW Reviews: ALADDIN in Bridgeport
What better way to end the Downtown Cabaret's Children's Theatre season than with a strong, memorable show? Playwright Phill Hill and director/choreographer Lance Anthony did just that with Aladdin. They gave the well-known tale the Downtown Cabaret's Children's Theatre's signature twist, which loyal audience members have come to expect and threw in some unexpected zingers, characters and events for good measure. He taps into celebrity frenzy and into children's literature. In one scene, a character goes into a presser and ends up like Flat Stanley (and gets inflated with a bicycle pump). Hill encourages more spontaneity and interaction with the audience in this play than in most other productions at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre. Add to that a terrific choice of songs, including "Burning Love" and "YMCA," and the show is a ball of energy from start to finish.
The Empress (Rene Ragan) tries to convince her daughter, Princess Adrianna (Jaime Lauren Morano), to marry a rich prince to save the fortune she lost (along with everything else). Because of their impecunious status, their loyal servant, Cecile (Nicole Rigo) almost leaves. Adrianna is very picky, turning down Prince Harry, Prince (the musician) and several other A-list candidates. Instead, she falls head over heels with the likeable but rather dim-witted Aladdin (Tim Rinaldi). The mayhem starts with Aladdin's simultaneously trying to escape from law enforcer Archibald (Jason Parry) and working with his equally brainless brother, Wishy-Washy (Chris Balestriere). They drive both their mother, the Widow Twanky (played hilariously by Anthony) and the villain Abanzer (John Stegmaier) crazy. Then, of course, there is a genie - two actually - the Genie of the Ring and the Genie of the Lamp (both played winningly by Khallid Graham).
Kudos to Leif Smith's set design and master electrician Robert Andersen. The background, with its twinkling stars and clever projections, are perfect.
This critic sees a lot of children's theatre, but this production of Aladdin ranks as one of the best ones ever. My active seven-year-old son, whom I took that evening to see The Wizard of Oz, wants to see Aladdin again. What better endorsement is that?
Aladdin runs through May 18. All tickets are $27.00. For more information, call 203-576-1636 or visit www.downtowncabaret.org.