For most people, the name “Aladdin” conjures images of Disney-style animated princes and genies who burst into spontaneous song and dance pieces. And while the Central Piedmont Community College's presentation of “Aladdin” does contain all of these elements, the show is actually based on an alternate version of “The Arabian Nights” and is tailored for an even younger audience.
Adapted for musical theater by Jim Eiler, the production's biggest differences from Disney's 1992 classic is that it is set in China rather than the Middle East, it features a less memorable score, and all of its characters have been simplified.
The slight changes in plotlines and the addition and subtraction of one or two characters (infamous Iago is missing, but Aladdin's mother has been added) is not enough to keep you from comparing the play to the film. Consequently, your 4-year old will love the show but your 10-year-old who has already seen the Disney version might want to pass.
Lacking in complication, CPCC's “Aladdin” is a simple story of a good boy overcoming a bad guy's trick in order to marry a pretty girl.
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In some ways, this very simplicity is what allows for more kid-friendly fun. The genie raps, the extras are children from the Charlotte area, and crowd interaction is smooth and fitting. Adam Morse, as the comedic genie, is especially engaging, inviting the audience to repeat noises after him. Dionne Eleby, as Aladdin's mother, recruits the youngsters to help her locate the genie – who happens to be hiding right behind her.
The addition of Eleby's character to the cast is one of the stronger features of this adaptation. Eleby embraces the matron's role with relish. Her every move is filled with sass and energy, and her vocals bring spontaneous applause.
Other highlights are the young extras, some as young as 8, and the overall visual presentation. With only 11 days of rehearsal, choreographer Linda Booth and music director Jean Phillips were able to train and refine the extras' choreography and chorus contribution.
The costumes are equally impressive. Designed and created by Jennifer Matthews, the wardrobe is stunning and rich both viewed from the audience and up close. Each piece gives substance to the setting of the story and plays a large part in bringing the story to life.
“Aladdin” is one of five shows being put on as part of the CPCC Summer Theatre program, which recruits theater students from around the country.