WALKER — Searching for a summer show that will appeal to children, the Spotlight Theater Players are headed to Arabia.
That’s where the story of Aladdin, the Livingston theater troupe’s second production, unfolds. The show will actually unfold on stage at Wholly Ground Coffee House in Walker, Spotlight’s new home, this week.
“It’s nothing like Disney. It’s not a musical. It’s just real straight storytelling and it actually has a storyteller (Jessie Cannon) as one of the characters,” director Donna VanOss said just before rehearsals July 24.
“We figured the Disney appeal of the story would pull them (the audiences) in, but it’s just a different way to tell the story. Girls and boys alike know the story,” VanOss said.
VanOss quickly pointed out that assistant director and stage manager Robert Reynolds is more a co-director than anything else. Reynolds was assistant director for Spotlight’s inaugural production, Steel Magnolias, staged last November at the Suma Center in Satsuma.
“Suma was great, but it’s very large, cavernous, and the audience was some distance from the stage. It seats 800, which is a lot for a grassroots theater group,” Reynolds said.
“We’ve found a smaller, more intimate setting here at Wholly Ground.”
The large room with a stage on the southern side of the coffee house can hold up to about 300, but the directors are hoping for about 200 at each of the four shows.
Aladdin, with script by Dan Neidermyer, veers slightly from the familiar Disney animated film’s storyline, and some of the characters vary as well.
The action opens on the streets of Arabia where the Grand Sultan’s fumbling guards are trying to catch the street-savvy Aladdin for allegedly kidnapping Princess Adora. Aladdin outruns the bickering guards only to meet the Magician, who tricks him into entering a cave to retrieve an old lamp. With possession of the “old lamp,” the evil and all-powerful Magician plans to take over the kingdom and banish the Grand Sultan and his family from the country. When Aladdin won’t hand over the lamp, the Magician laughs hideously and blocks off the exit, trapping Aladdin inside the cold, dark cave. Aladdin accidentally rubs the lamp and discovers a fairylike Genie bestowing wishes. And then the story really takes off, as all want their hands on the magic lamp.
At this particular rehearsal, Everett Fontenot, who’s playing Aladdin, was using a faux loaf of bread (the nearest object available) to represent the magic lamp, as the cast, mostly Walker and Denham Springs High School students, worked through the second act.
“He just sparkles,” VanOss said of her leading man. “Some kids just have a glow. We knew he was just Aladdin.”
Miranda Reynolds and Sarah Breland, both students at DSHS, are sharing the roles of Adora and Aladdin’s mother. They’ll alternate the characters they play for each performance.
Miranda Reynolds, daughter of the assistant director, was just 16 when she portrayed the complicated character of Annelle in Steel Magnolias.
“She has a really strong stage presence and a great voice,” VanOss said.
The magician, played by Walker High’s Grant Conrad, adds much humor to the show, the directors said.
“He’s strong and loud, he throws in little stuff, he’s funny,” VanOss said.
Playing alongside the Magician is Chase Bernard as the Genie of the Lamp.
“He’s totally opposite of the Robin Williams character (from the 1992 Disney film). He’s got a great voice and a very calm demeanor, He can play it off as just really deadpan,” VanOss said.
The cast will be performing in front of a set installed at Wholly Ground over the weekend by set designer David Miller. Miller is known in the area for creating the sets for the Dead Wing Manor Halloween haunted house in Livingston.
“He’s building it in his garage,” Reynolds said.
“It will have a Sultan’s palace, and a bazaar or marketplace. He’s building some palm trees and a tower. The play is actually written without a set, for black box, but it adds so much. It gives the idea and the children will come in and just look around,” he said, his eyes widening.
And then the audience will watch to see who ends up with that magic lamp.
- CAST: Everett Fontenot, Aladdin; Miranda Reynolds and Sarah Breland, Adora and Aladdin’s mother; Grant Conrad, The Magician; Aaron Heltz, The Grand Sultan; Jessie Cannon, Bular; Chase Bernard, The Genie of The Lamp; Sydney Houston, Suleyman; Brianna Thibodeaux, Houston and Joyce Kahl, The Palace Guards.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Donna VanOss, director; Robert Reynolds, assistant director/stage manager; David Miller, set design and construction/sound tech; Charlotte Reynolds and Mary Ingalls, costumes; Jo Carol Bearden and Branden Burdette, stage crew.