‘Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp’ at Elden Street Players

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Elden Street Players present Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, a re-imagining of the classic tale that draws inspiration from The Arabian Nights. Directors Laura Fontaine and Meredith Walker shed a unique light on a universal story in this coming-of-age adventure.

Aladdin Axis of Evil: L to R: Andrew Lent (Chancellor/Grand Vizier), Stuart Orloff (Accountant/Grand Vizier's Son), and Shad Itschner (Jester/Magician). Photo by Richard Durkin.

The set, constructed by Marty Sullivan, immediately draws you into the story. A painted backdrop shows a palace balcony overlooking a starry night sky, and drape-covered archways give a luxurious feel to the environment. The same is done with chairs and loveseats – brightly patterned fabrics spill onto the floor, as well as velvet cushions and throw pillows. The atmosphere is elegant yet comfortable, and richly colorful. Lighting Designer Chris Hardy favors red and gold shades, and sound designer Stan Harris meets every cue.  Kathy Dunlap does a fine job with costumes, especially in her choice to dress the Queen and Duchess in matching orange-silk gowns and tiaras, which is a charming effect. Embroidered vests, sandals, and colorful scarves are staples for this production, as well as uniforms such as a general’s suit, a fur-lined crimson king’s cape, and a jester’s hat, among others.

This version of Aladdin begins with a plot drawn from The Arabian Nights – a snobbish Queen (Holly McDade) and her small, look-alike Duchess (a feisty Melinda Goldfedder) are bored, and demand entertainment from their court. Shahryar (Luke McDade) is called upon for a story, and if it fails to please the Queen and Duchess – he will be banished from the kingdom! Shahryar decides on the story of Aladdin, and transforms his fellow court members into characters, who begin to act out the story while he narrates.

The enthusiastic court musician wins the part of Aladdin (Matt Takane). While the character of Aladdin is usually portrayed as clever, brave, and daring, Takane plays him as a frightened and somewhat timid child, who is doubtful of his skills. The jester-turned-evil-magician (Shad Itschner) easily talks Aladdin into fetching a magical lamp for him (for it can only be taken by an innocent person), but runs when he is spotted by the townspeople, who know his true nature. This leaves Aladdin with the lamp, and he soon realizes that it houses a magical Genie (a hilarious Patrick Graham), who makes his every wish come true. There is audience participation and the children were eager to participate.

The cast of 'Aladdin': Front, L to R: Nikki Pope, Annie Begley, Matt Takane, Yvonne Ramirez, Luke McDade Center, L to R: Patrick Graham, Melinda Goldfedder, Holly McDade Back, L to R: Katie Klopfer, Jarrett Goldfedder, Andrew Lent, Stuart Orloff, and Shad Itschner. Photo by Richard Durkin.

The Genie leaves Aladdin to do his own bidding, but he could not have done this at a worse time – Aladdin realizes that the Grand Vizier (Andrew Lent, whose nasally whine is excellent) is plotting to marry off his son (Stuart Orloff) to the unwilling Princess (Annie Begley) through evil, treacherous means, and overtake the kingdom! Can an immature Aladdin save his kingdom and the princess without any help from his genie? Does the production please the picky Queen and Duchess?

As someone who has seen her fair share of Aladdin productions at children’s theaters, I was impressed with the unique qualities of this one. The plot and characters embed different qualities than we are used to seeing with this particular story, and the result is refreshing. The acting is energetic, and the actors interact with audience throughout the performance, much to the children’s delight. People all around enjoyed themselves, myself included.

For a fun afternoon with your child (and their friends!) I recommend Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp!

Running Time: 60 minutes without an intermission.

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp plays through April 7, 2012 at Elden Street Players at The Industrial Strength Theatre – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA in the Sunset Business Park. Purchase tickets by calling (703) 481-5930, or order them online.