I wrote a review back in January about a musical theater production that was a dual language version of Disney’s Aladdin. It originated and was performed at the intimate CASA 0101 in Boyle Heights. The show has now been moved to the Los Angeles Theater Center in downtown Los Angeles. Since the DACA Program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – Dreamer Program) has been all over the news lately, I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit the production in its new incarnation. I’ve updated my previous post with new cast members and want to emphasize their mission to expose more inner city children to the performing arts. This entertaining show has the blessings of Disney Studios.
The production was directed by Rigo Tejeda; musically directed by Caroline Benzon and choreographed by Tania Possick. Bryan Louisville adapted, arranged and orchestrated the music from the Disney animated movie – composed by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.
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 angrily tosses the magic lamp out the window. As it flies through the air, magic dust falls on Iago, Princess Jazmin’s pet tiger Rajah and Aladdin’s monkey Abu, giving them the ability to speak both languages. The play takes a shot at the language limitation of most Americans and how it makes it difficult for us to fully understand each other’s point of view.
Funding for the arts is at an all time low and given our current administration’s proposed policies for “immigrants” it’s even more important than ever to support creative diversity-themed programs especially for children. The show appeals to adults as well and is a testament to the fact that they contribute richly to our society’s art and culture.
Aladdin Dual Language Edition was made possible by the office of Councilmember Gilbert A. Cedillo, City of Los Angeles, El Centro Del Pueblo, California Teachers Association, CASA 0101, the Los Angeles Theatre Center and other sponsors.
Aladdin Dual Language Edition – the production
I was impressed by the entire company of performers who have been double cast during its short run. They are full of energy, quick on their feet, and professional. On the night I attended, Aladdin was played by Daniel Sugimoto; Princess Jazmín by Sarah Kennedy; Genie by Lewis Powell III, and Jafar by Andrew Cano.
Kennedy as Jazmín is lovely with a lilting voice. Sugimoto, an accomplished musician, sings expertly as Aladdin. He occasionally slips into goofiness. Powell III, as Genie makes his theatrical debut in this production, but performs as if he’s done it all his life. He’s not quite as strong of a performer as the Genie I saw in January, (Finley Polynice, who performs on other nights) but part of that may be the acoustics of the larger Los Angeles Theatre Center. It’s a beautiful venue and perfect for this production but with two languages being spoken, some of the words got swallowed up for me at least.
It was fun to see the kids react to the performance. The night I attended was costume night and there was a costume contest after the show. They seemed to be enjoying the performance but like most children’s theater productions, there were a few crying babies. The kid behind me was kicking my chair. But, at least he did it in rhythm to the music so he must have been having a good time.
The Los Angeles Theatre Center is housed in a building that was originally an old bank built in 1916. It’s now operated by the Latino Theater Company.
For tickets please call (866) 811-4111
Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles CA 90013