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298 Kinderkamack Road, Oradell, NJ 07649


Bergen County Players, inc.


«  »May 2024


Midbergen "Aladdin" Review

Read full article at http://www.midbergen.com/index.php?module=News&func=display&sid=161

There are two ways of putting on a play for children. You can aim the play at the children, with the idea that their parents will take them to it, or you can have a play for adults to which they can take the children. The Bergen County Players' production of Aladdin is an example of the former. On the other hand, one might say that you are never too old to be a child. And it is, after all, the script from Jim Eiler of the Prince Street Players, who, instead of in-jokes and topical humor, wrote his plays with an air of whimsy. So, if you are ready to be charmed, keep reading the review. If you have children to take, definitely keep reading the review. And if you have to take teenagers, be prepared for them to have to try very, very hard not to smile.

The play uses a combination of Chinese style staging and American style acting. The sets are deceptively minimalist in appearance, although a careful eye can see the skill that went into putting them together. An onstage "Stage Manager" and "Assistants" double as minor characters and the chorus in the play. The effect, especially to the younger audience, comes off as fun rather than strange; the kids in the audience all had a grand time (and do note that the theater provides booster seats, although a few adults re-arranged their seats to give a better view to the smaller children). There is much breaking of the 4th wall, as the characters interact with the audience several times, while the Stage Manager, played by Jim Kelly, provides narration to keep things moving along (the play clocks in at a few minutes over an hour, with no intermissions).

The plot is the familiar one from The Arabian Nights; other than style, it is a mythical land that can easily be China, Arabia, or, for that matter, some corner of Oz. Those who are overly sensitive may observe a few parts of the play, written in the 1960's, which might be considered to be politically incorrect. For them it is suggested that they just sit back and remember that if the adverb is necessary, then the adjective is probably inappropriate. The music is hummable, if somewhat repetitive, striking a delicate balance of holding the interest of the children without boring the adults.

Evrerybody plays their role well, although there are the usual stand-out performances that characterize the Bergen County Players. Two of the young performers in particular bear watching in the future: Sara Biddle, who plays the part of Princess Mei-Ling, displayed a natural sweetness (and if it isn't natural, then that makes her an even better actress) and a wonderful and clear singing voice. Isabella Chang, playing Fatima the Dancing Doll and doubling as Dance Captain, shows skills of a somewhat older actress. For both, it will be interesting to see how their skills develop.

The third young lead, Wesley Laga in the role of Aladdin, plays the childlike character that Jim Eiler love to write; singing using the slightly off-key voice that has become popular in many current songs, but seamlessly switching to pitch perfect when doing the harmonies.

The adult roles are also well played. A stand-out performance is the Genie, played by Matt Rodofsky (no relation, as far as I know) very broadly, although he resists the temptation to play so broadly as to upstage his fellow actors. Andrew Gutierrez, playing The Magician, manages to be menacing without being too scary for the children. David Luke, as the Emperor, makes for an imposing presence. Finally, Eileen Karlson, plays Mrs. So-and-So, Aladdin's mother, in a way recognizable to most children (and many adults), as the mother who loves her child, but just can't see things the way he does.

One very nice touch comes after the production, when the actors assemble downstairs in the lounge to sign autographs (the program has two blank pages in the center for the purpose) and pose for photos. I noted that Matt Rodofsky was particularly good with the children, and, David Luke greeted the children with a warmth the belied the coldness of his character.

The children will have a great time, and, as long as they remember what it is like to be a child, so will the adults.

All performances for Aladdin take place at The Little Firehouse Theatre at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell, home to the Bergen County Players since 1949. Performance times are Fridays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm & 3:30pm. Tickets for Aladdin are $13 for all performances, and can be purchased online at www.bcplayers.org, by calling 201-261-4200 or by visiting the box office at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell during regular box office hours. Visa, Master Card, and American Express are accepted. Those interested in Group Sales of 20 or more tickets can call (201) 261-4200, x6. Parking is free at the Park Avenue municipal lot, across the street, one-half block north of the theater.

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