Discover “a whole new world” of magic and adventure when Teen Musical Theatre of Oregon presents a new adaptation of “Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.”
This musical tale of Aladdin and the lamp includes expanded characters and additional songs, including “High Adventure” and “Proud of Your Boy,” as well as favorites “A Whole New World,” “Prince Ali” and “Friend Like Me.”
“The old version and the new version of ‘Aladdin Jr.’ are based on the 1992 animated movie,” says Eric Strahl, director of the TMTO show. “But this newer version aligns itself a bit more with the 2014 Broadway show.
“Broadway productions tend to add, embellish or make changes to songs. The older version of ‘Aladdin Jr.’ kept some of the classic Disney songs from the film, and it had a big song for Jafar and Iago. The new version adds a song for Princess Jasmine. A big change is that Aladdin and Jasmine each have a pack of friends. They were created to lend more roles to the show, and there are more musical numbers to highlight the relationships between the new characters.”
Composer Alan Menken, lyricists Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and writer Chad Beguelin are the talent behind the new script, along with the film and Broadway productions. Ashman passed away in 1991, but still receives credit for his work.
“The first ‘Aladdin Jr.’ script was written for a younger demographic,” Strahl says. “So there’s cheesier jokes and a simplified storyline. The newer one is still written with kids in mind, but more campy. It feels like a shortened representation of the movie versus a kids’ show.”
TMTO’s performances of “Aladdin Jr.” will be presented at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, July 7 and 14, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets are $24, $12 for ages 12 and younger, and can be purchased at craterian.org, at the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., or by calling 541-779-3000.
This is Strahl’s fourth stint directing Teen Musical Theater of Oregon. The Craterian Performances event and marketing manager’s credits also include “The Little Mermaid,” “Peter Pan” and “Lion King Jr.”
After year-over-year growth, TMTO organizers decided to expand its summer programming and offer a show for younger performers. “Aladdin Jr.” follows last summer’s “Lion King Jr.” The performers’ age range is 9 through those going into eighth grade.
“It’s a classic story that all of the kids grew up with,” Strahl says. “The ‘92 movie with Robin Williams as the genie was of my generation. It’s one of those films we’ve shown to our kids 100 times because it was from our childhood. Everyone is familiar with the property, and the kids were excited to jump in and play around with the characters.”
Aladdin and his three friends, Babkak, Omar and Kassim, are down on their luck until Aladdin discovers a magic lamp and a genie who has the power to grant three wishes. Wishing to become a prince and marry Princess Jasmine, he embarks on an adventure that tests his will and moral character. And the evil Jafar, the sultan’s bag man, has his own agenda.
“Aladdin Jr.” is technically demanding, Strahl says. When telling a story with elements of magic — like a genie from a bottle who grants wishes — there is no end to the stage effects.
Strahl and the creative team looked at the challenges of the production, then researched similar ones to find projection designers who’ve worked on them.
“We look at impact value versus conquering a particular show,” Strahl says. “We chose Rick Frendt, based outside of Chicago. His animation is simple, yet it’s a lot of fun and filled with rich colors.
“His projections move around during scene transitions and moments of action, transporting the audience to another place and time. The concept is to have a giant tableau filled with interesting effects,” he says. “It’s been fun to incorporate it into rehearsals and tech.”
Christopher Kranenburg plays Aladdin, Sara Glauser is Jasmine, Sarah Metwally is Genie, Dominic Walsch is Sultan, Clara Bennett is Jafar, Leila Walch is Iago, Tobias Whitley is Babkak, Molly Kirkpatrick is Omar, and Abby Von Strahl is Kassim.
TMTO’s young performers also play a shop owner, apple vendor, fortune teller, beggars, a snake charmer, guards and attendants.
“To cast as many kids in the show as possible, we created scenescapes with groups of shoppers, beggars and vendors called Agrabahns (after the name of the fictional city the story is set in),” Strahl says. “When Aladdin and his buddies are in the town square, the characters upstage will be selling apples and trinkets, and adorable cherub-faced kids will be begging for money or food. The idea is to include as many performers as possible and create rich, scenic landscapes.
“We have quite a few cast members who come from local dance studios, so we created a dance ensemble we use when the genie does his conjuring,” he adds.
“Working with younger kids presents many challenges for the creative team, but the rewards are great. About half of our cast is in its first TMTO show. Many have backgrounds in dance or singing, but have never appeared in a musical before. It makes the challenge greater, but the end result is that much sweeter when we achieve our goal and tell a story well.”
Stephen McCandless is artistic director of TMTO; choreographer is Cailey McCandless; voice director is Andrea Hochkeppel; costume director is Sue Quackenbush; set design is by Gabriel Ash; lighting by Brad Nelson; properties are by David Gerten; makeup is by Mindy and Brian Day; and hair design is by Aspen Droesch.