Scheherazade’s mystical folktale, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, still spins its magic. Taken from James Norris’ 1940 adaptation of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, Adventure Theatre MTC’s production overflows with color, flash, and culture from start to finish.
Aladdin (Ryan Carlo Dalusung) is a poor boy who would rather seek adventure than do his chores, which annoys his mother (Francesca Marie Chilcote), who is constantly chasing him down in the streets. Adora (Ariana Kruszewski) is a princess who seeks a simpler life, causing her to flee the too-large palace belonging to her father, the Sultan (Thony Mena), while pursued by her caretaker, Noona (Ariana Almajan). Aladdin and Adora bump into each other and forge a friendship based on their common desire for adventure.
But Aladdin ends up on a fantastic journey sans princess when he is recruited—because of his purity—by a mysterious man known only as the Magician (Ahmad Kamal) to retrieve a lamp from an enchanted cave. The lamp is far from ordinary, as it contains a powerful Genie (Scott Ward Abernethy)—bedecked in gold and lemony robes—who will do as told by the holder of the lamp.
The actors are all good, but, as my young guest pointed out, she sometimes got confused on who was who. An angle I’d never considered but can see. For example, the Genie and the Magician also double as villagers and many scenes are fast-moving, quick-paced affairs in which one minute you see the Genie and, the next, you see the actor as another character.
Still, she loved the Genie. “Sometimes,” he says while looking at the Magician who asked that Adora be whisked far, far away, “I hate my job.”
Kamal as the Magician is also delightful, portraying a character who is less evil and more just sad and bitter at being a homeless wanderer pining for the Maghreb, his home in North Africa. This puts a nice spin on how xenophobia causes people to see outsiders and interpret their actions. Naturally, he’s not pure of heart like the young Aladdin (a state of being Dalusung conveys perfectly) and given to still dreaming of a wondrous future, but he really just wants to go home so that others—Princess Adora in particular—can understand his pain. Still, he is as wicked as the Genie is joyful, especially when serving a charming, optimistic boy like, Aladdin, who is by nature an honest dreamer. That’s how he enters the cave and wins Adora’s admiration and trust.
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
closes May 21, 2017
Details and tickets
The production is culturally charmed, infusing puppetry elements from Central Asia—including Uzbekistan—and reclaiming the correct pronunciation of Aladdin, which is not said at all how you were taught. There were also opening musicians (who I hope are there when you go) to set the mood, using only a guitar and finger symbols to make spare, beautiful music, like rain on a tin roof during a monsoon. And, there were elements of dance in the scene changes, in which individuals unfurled, spun, and flung large pieces of cloth like wind dancing sails loosened from a mast. The floor is painted to look like sand art—a mosaic of colors—and the “walls” of the set are Middle Eastern rugs of all shapes and sizes, some with tricks of their sleeves.
Aladdin is enjoyable and stays true to its source material, but its intricate costumes (lots of layers and sparkles, fancy and threadbare) outstanding scenery, use of lighting and projections, especially to create shadow puppets, which I would have loved to see more often, and cultural touches that steal the show.
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp by James Norris. Directed by Roberta Gasbarre. Featuring Ariana Almajan, Ryan Carlo Dalusung, Francesca Marie Chilcote, Ahmad Kamal, Ariana Kruszewski, Thony Mena, Scott Ward Abernethy, Mason Catharini, Philip da Costa, and Dannielle Hutchinson. Production: Sam Game, Assistant Director; Celeste Harrison, Assistant Director; Dr. Laural Victoria Gray, Movement Consultant; Tyler Gunther, Costume Designer; Hana Sooyeon Kim, Scenic and Projections Designer; Lynn Joslin, Lighting Designer; Kenny Neal, Sound Designer; Andrea “Dre” Moore, Properties and Puppets Designer; Will Voorhies, Master Electrician; Amy Kellett, Scenic Charge; Helena Gracia Alton; and April Carter, Assistant Stage Manager. Stage Manager, Toni Goldberg. Presented by Adventure Theatre MTC . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale