When I was invited to watch a production of Aladdin at Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how it would be relevant to my Baby Boomer themed blog. The show is a dual language musical take-off of Disney’s “Aladdin” that has the blessing of Disney Studios. In this version, evil Jafar is first to find the genie’s lamp. He divides the city of Agrabah by “wishing” that the people of the palace only speak Spanish and the commoners only English. To increase his power, he gives himself the ability to speak both languages.
His parrot, Iago, makes him mad and he angrily tosses the lamp out the window. As the lamp flies, magic dust accidentally falls on Iago, Princess Jazmin’s pet tiger Rajah and Aladdin’s monkey Abu, giving them the ability to speak both languages.
Casa 0101 Theater, where the play is being presented, is located in a Hispanic neighborhood. Some people speak only Spanish, and others only English. Most Americans only speak English, unlike in other countries where many are bi-lingual or multi-lingual. The play takes a shot at our language limitation and our inability to fully communicate with each other.
The purpose of this production is to entertain and inspire both children and adults. The company’s goal is to perform in other local theaters and schools so they can spread their message and are asking the community for support. It’s likely that funding for the arts is going to take an even deeper cut in the next four years, so the more we Baby Boomers can support it the better.
The lobby of the theater features an art gallery with the work of local artists. Its current exhibit is entitled “Prayers from LA” I noticed one painting that had the words “Pray for LA” written in clouds hovering over the city. In lieu of the incoming administration’s stance on immigration, it was heartbreaking to see.
Casa 0101 is funded by The California Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Arts Commission, The Herb Alpert Foundation, the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Bloomberg Philanthropic and the Weingart Foundation.
The Aladdin Dual Language production’s sponsors include: The office of Councilmember Gilbert A. Cedillo, City of Los Angeles, 1st District: Councilmember José Huizar, City of Los Angeles, 14th District; Soledad Enrichment Action Inc. (SEA), El Centro Del Pueblo, Bigbelly, Clear Channel Outdoor, White Memorial Medical Center and Corner Bakery.
I wanted to highlight all the sponsors because I believe that theater and other art forms that recognize diversity, need to be supported and celebrated.
Aladdin – in Dual Language – the production
I was impressed by the entire young cast of Aladdin. They were all accomplished, energetic, and professional. The main characters of Aladdin, Princess Jazmín, Genie, and Jafar have been double cast for the show’s six-week run ending February 19th, 2017. In the performance I attended, they were played by Daniel Martinez as Aladdin; Sarah Kennedy as Princess Jazmín; Findley Polynice as Genie; and Luis Marquez as Jafar.
It’s impossible to compare the off-the-wall-off-the-charts portrayal of Genie that Robin Williams made famous in the movie. However, Findley Polynice does an excellent job and gives his character a peppy and soul-filled twist.
Other standouts were Sebastian Gonzales, as the adorable and flexible little Abu and Jason David as Iago, who wears a parrot puppet on his shoulder. Even though he is clearly imitating the voice of Gilbert Gottfried, he’s fun to watch. The ensemble keeps the 80- minute production hopping with their enthusiastic singing and dancing skills. I noticed that the kids in the audience were enthralled and engaged, which is a nice thing to see in this age of technology.
Even though there were a few technical glitches, the sets and costumes were colorful and sparkling.
As an“ugly” American who can only speak un poquito Espanol, I didn’t catch all the jokes, but it didn’t matter because I was able to get the gist.
The Aladdin Dual Language Edition runs through February 19th at Casa 0101
2102 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033
The Casa 0101 website