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Aladdin Jr (Purple)

by on 3 April 2022

Keep the Magic Carpet Flying

Aladdin Jr.

by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin

Dramacube Productions, Twickenham Purple Cast at Hampton Hill Theatre until 1st April

Review by Gill Martin

It only takes a rub of the magic lantern to summon the genie.  And what an obliging genie she was.

This stand-out star of a lively young cast of Aladdin Jr.,  playing at Hampton Hill Theatre before the Easter break, cast enough magic to keep the carpet flying, the audience transfixed and the Arabian nights tale alive and vivid as ever.

School children from Twickenham and Hampton Hill rehearsed in five different casts throughout the academic term to each give two public performances, the aspiring actors’ age ranging from seven to fifteen.  I lucked out with the April Fools’ night show by Twickenham Purple Cast, an accomplished group of teenagers who transported us between an Arab market place, a Sultan’s Palace, a spooky cave of wonders and an enchanting magic carpet ride of romance through shooting stars as (Plot Spoiler Alert) Aladdin, played by Chester Barnes, wins the heart of Princess Jasmine (Abigail Eggleton) of Agrabah.

Every nightwear drawer in the neighbourhood was rifled by a cast seeking silky pyjamas to morph into harem pants and fancy tunics.  Their wardrobe was topped with tassels and sashes, exotic headwear, feathers and fez.

The Genie (Charlotte Taylor) out-sparkled them all in sequins and shimmering turquoise silk waist coat as she weaved her cosmic power.  She was confident and accomplished, with a strong singing voice and verve to match. 

All the actors of Dramacube Youth Theatre grew in confidence as the fifty-minute action revved up, with lively music, energetic dancing and cutlass-wielding guards fighting street beggars.  Oscar winning Will Smith could take a lesson from their stunt fights.

The heart of the story is how a rich and privileged princess, forced to marry a suitable man of her father’s choice, determines to escape.  Art imitates life in this nod to Princess Latifa, daughter of Dubai’s dictatorial ruler, who kidnapped her from the high seas and walled her up in his kingdom.

Jasmine, like real life Latifa, feels trapped in her gilded cage.  ‘There’s more to life than princes and palaces,’ she declared.

‘Riches don’t mean happiness.

 ‘I won’t be auctioned off to some self-centred show off.’

Too late, it seems for Aladdin, who had just used up one of three wishes granted by the Genie by asking to become a prince.  A very handsome prince, it turned out, with model looks and fashionably floppy hair.

Feisty Jasmine is all for equal rights rather than royal perks.  If only …

Full marks to Hannah Calarco for production and colourful costume design, and Gary Stevenson for impressive lighting (he was aided by the Genie at an earlier performance when Covid struck a colleague).  Choreography and musical direction were by James Markham and Heather Stockwell.  Sound was by David Gates, who played a clever trick with the spooky voice of Sejal Khadakkar, who kept jolly busy as Iris, a shop owner and attendant.  Now that’s multi-tasking.

Mini critic Dexter, who described himself as ‘still ten,’ rated the show as: ‘great, really great … and the best was the Genie.’  Smart lad.

The cast was directed by Matthew Bunn.  Producer Steve Leslie had been busy rubbing his magic lamp and wishing all ten shows to run despite the odd Covid no-show.  At the final curtain of the last show on Saturday night (2nd April) he could breathe a sigh of relief.

Leslie, who founded Dramacube a decade ago and has sixteen major productions to his credit, is now gearing up for the anniversary.  He said: ‘During the past decade over 1500 young performers have breathed life into a vast array of characters from Matilda to the Mad Hatter. We’ve taken on Trunchbull, Hannigan and Hook, overcome Wicked Witches and travelled from New York to Neverland.   ‘Aladdin Jr. is our first production of 2022…a very special show as it kicks off celebrations for our 10th birthday.’  ‘The big celebration will take place in May and we’d love all our current cast to be part of our Decade of Dramacube show which will be part of a big event at the Exchange Theatre, Twickenham.’

Dramacube is also planning an environmental legacy, with a tree donated to Bushy Park this autumn, the first of an annual tree planting for a theatrical woodland.

Gill Martin, April 2022

Photography by Bomi Cooper

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