By JOHN DE GROOTE
For two weekends this month, Aloha Theatre will be transformed into the city of Agrabah — a city of enchantment, where every beggar has a story.
“Aladdin Jr.” tells the tale of a street urchin in love with a beautiful princess, who — with the help of some magical friends — overcomes a power-hungry villain, learns some valuable life lessons and gets the girl of his dreams.
“It’s just a magical story,” said director Sue Boyum. “The movie came out more than 20 years ago. Now we get to expose a whole new generation of kids to the story.”
“Aladdin Jr.” follows closely to the 1992 Disney movie and includes award-winning musical numbers like “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me.”
Audiences will be immersed in the magic-filled world of Aladdin immediately after taking their seats.
“What we tried to do with the play was to make it a magical experience from the minute you enter the theater,” Boyum said. “We have turned the auditorium into the city and have actors in the aisles for a large part of the show.”
Forty young actors, ranging in age from 7 to 18, make up the talented cast.
“We put together a cast with some people who have been in Aloha Performing Arts Co. productions before, but also some new faces,” Boyum said. “It’s a little risky because you don’t really know what they are capable of, but you have to trust what you saw in the audition.”
Newcomers to the stage include: Isaiah Hooper in the title role of Aladdin, Tiger Lily Hurd as Princess Jasmine, Josiah Clark as Jafar and Oliver Hai-Kelly as Jafar’s right-hand bird, Lago.
Returning actors include: Alec Lugo as the Genie, Mahina Farmer as the Magic Carpet, John Hulen as Razoul and Zachary Kaneshiro as the Sultan.
“It’s awesome,” Hooper said. “This is my first play, and I’m really excited for opening night. The play is very entertaining, and I can’t wait for people to see it.”
Fans of the 1992 Aladdin movie will remember the larger than life Genie character portrayed by Robin Williams. Lugo brings much of the same energy to role of the Genie character that Williams did.
“It’s just such a fun role,” Lugo said. “I knew it was a character that I could use my improv and comedy skills with. I decided to make him silly and upbeat with all the funny references.”
After being released from his lamp, Lugo delivers clever one-liners to the audience, hilariously deliberates with Aladdin, and at one point summons the entire cast on stage for a spectacular dance number.
“I started being really big, and when the director told me to bring it down, I brought it down a few notches — but just a little,” Lugo said.
A character that will steal the hearts of audiences is the adorable Magic Carpet. Farmer and Lugo often trade quips and fist bumps, and audiences will get a kick of how the carpet is incorporated into the production.
“I give her big kudos,” Boyum said of her young star. “She turned a character with no lines into an amazing role. I get so engaged watching her glide around the stage.”
“Aladdin Jr.” is more than a classic love story — it’s a tale that gives children and adults alike an opportunity to get lost in a fantasy world and learn valuable life lessons along the way.
“It’s G-rated, family fun that brings the story to life in a new way with real people,” Boyum said. “I want people to get out and see it early and share the magic of live theater with their family. I think that is really important.”
“Aladdin Jr.” will play two weekends at the Aloha Theatre: Fridays, June 21 and 28, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, June 23 and 29, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays, June 29 and 30, at 2:30 p.m.
Prices are $12 for adult admission, $10 seniors (age 65 and older) and young adults (age 18 to 25) and $5 for children. Tickets are available at apachawaii.org or one hour prior to show time at the door.
Email John De Groote at email@example.com.