by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we had a chance to chat with Jenny Myers, director of Aladdin, Jr. presented by CMT, about the show. Aladdin Jr. opens next week in Fresno at the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium.
KRL: Why did you personally want to direct this show?
Jenny: I chose to direct Aladdin Jr. for two reasons. First and most important, I love this age group. The kids for the most part are new to the theater and the performance world. They are extremely excited, and eager to learn and explore the world of performance. It’s awesome to get to rediscover the stage and performance again through the children. They remind me why I started performing and re energize my passion to teach, direct and perform. The second reason is the fact that I love Disney and love how the kids performing respond to the material and how our audiences respond to the productions. They know the story and are excited before even sitting down.
KRL: How does the Jr. version differ from the adult version?
Jenny: At this point the only stage version currently available to perform is Aladdin Jr. Disneyland’s California adventure has an adaptation of the movie that they do as a short musical version. But it is exclusive to the theme park. Aladdin is currently in the process of being workshopped and the pre-Broadway performances are scheduled to debut in 2014. The main difference is the length of the production. There is quite a bit more dialogue and music. They have also added additional songs to the upcoming Aladdin.
KRL: How does it differ from the Disney movie?
Jenny: Aladdin Jr. is very similar to the movie. The audience will definitely recognize the story and music. The major differences are the length, the character Raja is not included in the script, and all of the songs have been reworked to add the townspeople to give more stage time to the performers. Aladdin Jr. has added narrators to help the story line along and to fill in the blanks about how Aladdin gets into and out of the cave (in the movie he flies on the carpet) they also keep us informed about Jafar’s plans, and inform the audience about the stories timeline. The story line is also simplified a bit to help the kids communicate the story to the audience.
KRL: What are the ages of the cast?
Jenny: The ages of the cast members are 6 to 11 or they are required to have finished kindergarten but not yet have started seventh grade.
KRL: How big is the cast?
Jenny: We have a cast of 68 kids. The show is double cast. One cast is referred to as the Abu cast and the other is the Casbah cast. Only the principals are double cast. Jasmine, Genie, Abu, carpet, the narrators. The exception is our male roles. Aladdin and Jafar are the same in both casts. All 68 kids perform in every production. The principals become townspeople on their off nights.
KRL: Wow that’s a big cast. Where there any special challenges to directing this show?
Jenny: Every production comes with its own unique challenges but for this particular production I have to say it has been coming up with creative ways to make the magic happen. There are several expectations one has when going to see a production of Aladdin. People expect the carpet to fly, the genie to come out of a small magic lamp and for a common street boy to become a prince. With the help of an amazing production team I believe we will meet all of those expectations.
KRL: What are some of the songs in the show?
Jenny: The most well known songs in the show are, “One Jump”, “Friend Like Me”, and “A Whole New World”.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Jenny: I just want to add what a great experience for all involved these productions are. Although we move quickly and put together a top-notch production we are still able to offer the kids and parents a true training program. I’m always amazed that a child and parent can walk into the audition having no clue what to do or expect and have them walk out six weeks or so later a seasoned performer ready and excited for the next audition and production.
When asked why CMT chose to do Aladdin Jr. this season, CMT executive director Judy Stene stated, “We chose Aladdin Jr. as the title for our Shining Stars (Ages 6-10) because it’s a great experience for younger kids who know the movie and songs so well. We recommend Disney musicals highly as a good first theater experience for little ones.”
Aladdin Jr. is on stage from Performances: July 19 – 27, Thursday, Friday, & Saturday Evening Performances at 7:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday Matinee’s at 2 p.m. at Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St., Fresno. To purchase tickets, and for more information, check out the CMT website and the KRL theatre event page.