BWW Review: ALADDIN AND THE WONDERFUL LAMP at Adventure Theatre
Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) companies have it more difficult than companies that present theatre for adults in some respects. If they set out to present a story that's already been adapted by a certain big entertainment company - you know, the one that all started with a mouse - audiences are likely to come into the theatre with that version in mind. They may also expect a big budget spectacular that few - if any - TYA companies are positioned to deliver.
So, what does a reputable TYA local theatre like Adventure Theatre do to present a familiar story that depends on magic and special effects? They hire a bunch of really creative designers, cast some excellent actors helmed by a good director, and presto! We have Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.
James Norris' adaptation follows the original story pretty closely. Aladdin (Ryan Carlo Dalusung) is a carefree youth with a mean whistle. He likes to dream big. His mother (Francesca Marie Chilcote) can never keep track of his location. Aladdin is in love with the Sultan's (Thony Mena) daughter, the Princess Adora (Ariana Kruzewski) who's attended to by her servant Noona (Ariana Almajan). After the Sultan's edict is reversed, Aladdin and the princess are allowed to marry. However, things are not all happy in this far away land of Arabian Knights. There is an evil magician (Ahmad Kamal) who wants a magic lamp that is buried in a cave. The lamp houses the Genie (Scott Ward Abernethy) who will cater to the lamp owner's every whim. When Aladdin meets the magician, he is persuaded to go into the cave to retrieve the lamp. As we all know, this turns into an adventure he won't ever forget. He is granted a wish and the genie is ready to oblige.
Without giving it all away, the remainder of the story includes a castle built specifically for Adora, two parents finally believing in magic, and other cool things that you'll have to see for yourself because I'm staying "One Jump Ahead" of you.
Now it's time to talk about our merry band of performers. Ryan Carlo Dalusung, as Aladdin, is full of energy and ingenuity. His performance will definitely make you "Proud of Your Boy." Can you get that reference?
Scott Ward Abernethy is hilarious as the Genie. Check out the way he brings food to Aladdin's mother and how he makes the parents believe in magic. It left them - and will leave you - spinning.
I really enjoyed Ariana Kruszewski as the Princess Adora. The chemistry between her and Dalusung will make you say "AWWW, aren't they a nice couple?"
Ahmad Kamal doesn't overdo it as the evil magician. He is as scary and as evil and manipulative as he needs to be, but won't scare the little ones out into the lobby. Kamal achieves the perfect balance/
Thomy Mena gives an imperial performance as the Sultan while Francesca Marie Chilcote's performance as Aladdin's mother is a loving portrayal of someone who just wants the best for her son.
Ariana Almajan as Noona and other characters, including our narrator, also makes the most of her stage time.
Director Roberta Gasbarre keeps the action moving and ensures the story is interesting and engaging enough for all ages to enjoy from beginning to end.
I said earlier that the designers had to come up with some pretty ingenious ways to put over the story without a multi-Mouseketeer budget. First up is our royal scenic and projections designer Hana Sooyeon Kim. The set is adorned with Arabic, as well as lamps and carpeting from the Middle East region. Her snazzy and eye-popping projections take us from the depths of a cave to high above in the sky.
Lynn Joslin's lighting makes full use of the theatre floor for some really cool spinning effects. The scene with Aladdin in the cave and the magician up above is "geniusly" lit (no pun intended) to show the magician in silhouette.
Tyler Gunther's costumes capture the time and place perfectly. The Genie's yellow ensemble is one you can't get out of your mind.
The marketplace in this story is tricky because there are supposed to be hordes of people. Props and puppet designer Andrea "Dre" Moore has figured out how to add more people without Adventure Theatre having to pay for additional actors. Let's just say the humans have some good heads and bodies on their shoulders.
Kenny Neal's sound design features gongs and Middle Eastern drums that add to the atmosphere.
Do yourself a favor. With the nice weather coming now, get on over to Glen Echo Park with the family, turn left at the carousel, and check out Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp at Adventure Theatre. Opportunity Knocks but Once (reference) so don't let it pass you by. Enjoy this adventure and talk about it from Maryland to (last reference) "A Million Miles Away."
Running Time: 60 minutes with no intermission.
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp runs through May 21, 2017 at Adventure Theatre which is located Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, click here.
NOTE: All reference quotes are from the mouse's version of Aladdin except for "Opportunity Knocks but Once" which is a Cole Porter lyric from his 1955 TV version of the story.