It may be a by-product of pop culture phenomena like South Park but the children I asked at Wheelock Family Theatre’s ALADDIN this past weekend all adored the Bad Guy! Or maybe it’s just that Larry Coen is the funniest villain they’ve ever seen. He mugs, stomps his feet, mushes his chin up under his nose. Let’s face it. He intends to steal the show. That isn’t easy, considering the talent in ALADDIN and the Wonderful Lamp (playing through May15th).
James Norris’ adaptation of ALADDIN returns to the “Arabian Nights” source material so Wheelock audiences are treated to two genies, the one everyone knows lives in the lamp and another formidable force of nature, the genie of the ring (not to be confused with the “Lord of the Ring”).
Wheelock is fortunate to have a charismatic Aladdin. (Sebastian Kim is now a teenager but he’s been acting at Wheelock for years!) When the evil magician (the larcenous Coen) discovers that only an honest person can retrieve the lamp from beneath the earth, he tricks the guileless Aladdin into helping him. While in the underground cave, Aladdin meets the Genie of the Ring, a ferocious John Davin as the Ring leader of an army of magical, chanting spirit/slaves.
Wheelock has an arsenal of character actors to liven up a story. Director (and clever desert/set designer) James P. Bryne creates hilarious havoc on stage, almost as if he winds everyone up and lets them go. Dan Dowling, Jr. bellows and frets over his gorgeous daughter (Samantha Boucher), as the reigning Sultan. June Baboian is a whirling dervish of an indulgent nanny and Monique Nicole McIntyre is delightful as a gullible and unwitting accomplice to the nasty Magician. (McIntyre’s daughter performs in the show as well, as one of the Lamp genie’s slaves. Wheelock really is a “Family” theater!)
Where John Davin is an earthbound genie, Kortney Adams descends from the sky as the beautiful genie of the lamp. Adams is deliciously pleased with her powers, manipulating the action below her with a wiggle of her toes or a turn of her magnificent bejeweled turban. Melissa Miller’s sumptuous costumes add to the exotic feel of the show. She layers gilt accented silk scarves over colorful Indian prints which sparkle under John R. Malinowski’s dappled lighting.