Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: Love Transcends Limitations in Casa 0101's ALADDIN Dual Language Edition

L-R: Valeria Maldonado, Rosa Navarrete, Sebastian Gonzalez and
Daniel Martinez. All photos by Luis Gaudi

Love transcends the limitations of language in Casa 0101’s charming production of Disney’s Aladdin Dual Language Edition/Edición De Lenguaje Dual, and that uplifting message is a takeaway that never loses its luster. The simple story of Aladdin (Daniel Martinez) and his magic lamp overcoming the villainous Jafar (Omar Mata), with the help of a jovial genie (Lewis Powell III) and his loyal pet monkey (Sebastian Gonzalez), has become a family favorite, thanks to the popularity of Disney’s 1992 animated film.

This version pairs Alan Menken’s classic songs with a newly-adapted book by Jim Luigs and José Cruz González to create a fresh spin on the story that is tailor-made for Los Angeles. Casa 0101’s staging is bright and full of life, with energetic production numbers and creative undisguised stage magic. There is pageantry, romance, and plenty of humor packed into the 85-minute show which is performed by a cast of twenty each night (the four leading characters are double-cast). And, as the title suggests, there is a twist.

The people of Agrabah are under a spell. Those in the palace can only speak Spanish while those in the streets can only speak English. So when Princess Jazmin (Valeria Maldonado) runs away and meets Aladdin in the market place they are only able to understand each other with the help of their translators (who happen to be their pets). For the sake of the audience, a trio of Royal Translators (Diana Castrillon, Blanca Espinoza, and Shanara Sanders) also provide narration with other characters adding further explanation. The result is a story that is easy to follow regardless of whether you speak both, or only one, of the languages.

Valeria Maldonado (Jazmin) and Daniel Martinez (Aladdin)

That’s an important distinction for those who have championed the show, which is being presented by Casa 0101 Theater and TNH Productions in association with the office of Councilmember Gilbert A. Cedillo. This is a true community effort meant to increase opportunities for underserved members of the surrounding area and to provide a tangible method of expression for those who wish to pursue a career in the arts.

To see them in action was inspiring on many levels, not the least of which was watching how they inspired potential donors after the show to pledge funds to help others attend who might otherwise not be able to see the show on their own. Other theaters may do this but I haven’t seen it done in quite this way before.

Following the performance, producers came out and made a quick pitch for why their work was so important. Using a dry erase board to record the pledges, they then asked if anyone in the audience was willing to commit to different sponsorship levels. Within the span of five minutes, they received over $4500. Now that’s impressive.

But what I found even more encouraging was that they didn’t just ask for money, they made the case for why it was so important. They succeeded in getting people invested in their vision by showing why their work is relevant and good for the community. And the community responded.

The joy of theatre, and the whole new world it can open up, is on full display in Casa 0101’s Aladdin. Seeing it made me happy, and that’s what I call a job well done.
*        *        *        *        *        *        *

Aladdin Dual Language Edition/Edición De Lenguaje Dual is directed by Rigo Tejeda and produced by Abel Alvarado, Felipe Agredano, Emmanuel Deleage, Edward Padilla, Rigo Tejeda & Conrad Terrazas, with musical direction by Caroline Benzon and choreography by Tania Possick. Book is by Jim Luigs and José Cruz González, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, lyric translation by Walterio Pezqueira. The music is adapted, arranged and orchestrated by Bryan Louiselle.

Lewis Powell III as the Genie

Jason David (Iago) and Omar Mata (Jafar)

Shanara Sanders, Blanca Espinoza and Diana Castrillon with cast of Aladdin

Henry Madrid (Sultan) and Valeria Maldonado (Jazmin)

The Ensemble of Disney's Aladdin - Dual Language Edition

January 13 - February 19, 2017
Casa 0101 Theater
2102 E. First Street (at St. Louis Street)
Boyle Heights, CA 90033

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