Sunday, January 22, 2017

Aladdin – Book by Jim Luigs, José Cruz Gonzáles, Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice


By Joe Straw

When I was a small child, my brothers and I found a lamp at the bottom of a trash heap.  It took me a while to get down to it, a slight cliff through some Georgian mud.  But I couldn’t resist the light coming from it.  And, because I was the one who got it, it was understood that I was going to do the rubbing.   

So, we sat there in tattered clothing and bare feet, (the bi-product of a broken home), in the middle of a cow pasture, with the lamp between us.

“Don’t worry, I’ll wish for something for all of us.” I said.

I glanced over to them just to see their reaction - ‘cause they never believed anything I said.   

And as I picked up the lamp we could feel the anticipation.  I moved the lamp back and forth, catching the sun and shinning it into their squinting eyes, they laughed, and pushed me along.  I made sure their fingers, toes, and eyes were crossed as I rubbed.

Well, nothing happened. I ran over to the cliff and threw the lamp back into the trash heap.

We walked away and dreamed for the next encounter, one that would, next time , bring us fame and fortune. – Narrator

The kids need some tap shoes. I said this as I watched a wonderful tap number performed without tap shoes. Well, it seemed like a tap number.  It wasn’t jazz, it wasn’t ballet, it wasn’t hip-hop, or soft shoe, and so it must have been tap.  I’ll say it again; the kids need some tap shoes. Sí, creo que sería una gran adición a la muestra.  

Casa 0101 and TNH Productions present in association with Los Angeles Councilmember, Gil Cedillo, Disney Aladdin Dual Language Edition, Book by Jim Luigs, José Cruz González, Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Music Adapted, Arranged and Orchestrated by Bryan Louiselle based on the 1992 Disney Film, Aladdin. Directed by Rigo Tejeda, and Produced by Abel Alvarado, Felipe Agredano, Emmanuel Deleage, Edward Padilla, Rigo Tejeda & Conrado Terrazas.

Walterio Pezqueira manifested the lyric translations into Spanish, the language of the elite class residing in the castle. The peasantry spoke English.   The show was Musically Directed by Caroline Benzon and there were numbers in the show that were recognizable and warmed the heart. Beautifully Choreographed by Tania Possick as one eagerly waited for the next song and dance numbers – all were superb. 

Abel Alvarado, Costume Designer, did a terrific job.  The costumes were wonderful and gave this production an added boost. 

The majestic carpet ride was wonderful in execution. It confirms a specific thought that someone cared enough, and was generous enough to, one, make the carpet fly, and two, to see the production soar.
There is a lot to love about this production of Aladdin.  Certainly you’ve got to give it to the multitudinous actors who have put their heart and soul into the execution that will delight patrons of all ages, from the young to the young at heart.

But, this show is not without fault, which I will get to later.

Everyone knows the story of Aladdin.  Peasant boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl, boy finds a genie, and boy gets everything he wants.

Or, another way to look at this musical, princess meets boy, princess falls in love with boy who doesn’t have a clue, princess sees the boy messing things up and getting arrested, taken into the desert, and thrown into a cave, while princess is left alone to defend herself against unsuitable suitors, the Grand Vizier, and a father who doesn’t understand her.

This particular Aladdin has a twist in that Jafar (Omar Mata) has made it so the members in the castle speak Spanish (the ruling class) and cannot communicate with the loyal subjects who speak the peasant’s English. Jafar has dreams of becoming the Sultan once he marries the lovely princess, Jazmin (Valeria Maldonado). Jafar doesn’t let anyone know of his secrets, only confiding in that wacky bird, Iago (Jason David), who doesn’t know when to keep his beak shut.

Michael Torrenueva was superb as Aladdin. In fact, he does yeoman work and has a very pleasant voice. Winning the girl as a peasant was an easy task but it was more difficult to win her as a prince.  Torrenueva played both actions with a smooth finesse.

Valeria Moldanado, as Jazmín, has a very persuasive delivery in Spanish.   There was also an underlying truth to her performance.  She was in love when she needed to be, coy when she wished, and full of vitality and strength – on top of that she has a very lovely voice.

Lewis Powell III, as the genie, sets the stage on fire with his incredible entrances and the power of his voice. He might want to add freedom to his objective starting with his entrance on stage and never giving that up. This would give the character want - whether that manifests itself physically, emotionally, or sub textually is up to the performer.

Jason David, Omar Mata

Omar Mata is the tenebrous Jafar.  On top of that wonderful height is an equally incredible voice and manner about the stage.  He is specific in his movements and his objective and appears at ease on stage.   Certainly, this is a performance not to miss.

The Royal Translators, Diana Castrillon, Blanca Espinoza, and Shanara Sanders were lovely in song and dance describing the injustices going on around the castle.

Also, the three princes, who wanted the hand of Jazmin, Alejandro Lechuga, Jesse Maldonado, and Bryant Melton, each presented a unique character, one too soft, one too hard, and one just full of himself. Lechuga and Maldonado have a terrific presence on stage and added nice touches to their roles as members of the ensemble. Maldonado always gives 110 percent.

Henry Aceves Madrid and Valeria Maldonado

Henry Aceves Madrid plays the Sultan and presents a fine character.

Evan Garcia played Razul.

Sebastian Gonzalez as Abu, the monkey, was fine but needs to make more of the relationship with Aladdin.  Jumping into his arms a few times is not enough to show a relationship. The relationship must be specific to give us an idea of how they work together, or don’t work together, to achieve their objective. At times, he must be the master, the slave, the ultimate thief, the caregiver, the lover, and on.

Jason David is Iago (the parrot) and has some moments that really shine.  Ironically, on this night, someone went up on his or her lines, and it was the parrot that squawked them back on track.  Iago has an objective; the problem is finding it and then building on that objective to make creative choices. Regarding the nature of using your own voice, I think it’s best to find your own voice and not an imitation of a voice heard from another medium.

Danielle Espinoza is the Magic Carpet and presents a wonderfully wicked smile as she guides the lovers onto the ultimate destination.

Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete was Rajah, the big wise cat that protects Jazmin.  There was something very sultry in her performance, a manner of inner beauty, of mysterious modus in her character. Dressed with a pieneta, an ornamental comb, like a flamenco dancer. Her craft works on a number of levels.  (I would love to see a flamenco dance from this character.)

Other members of the ensemble, which played terrific supporting roles, are Mariana Rocio Petersen, Jocelyn Sanchez, and Andrea Somera.

L - R Sarah Kennedy, Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete, Sebastian Gonzalez, Daniel Martinez

Other cast member that I did not see perform on this night are Evan Garcia (Razul), Sarah Kennedy (Jazmín), Luis Marquez (Jafar), Daniel Martinez (Aladdin), and Finley Polynice (Genie).

Rigo Tejeda, the director does a fine job with the help of a supporting crew of what seems like hundreds in this production. I have a few notes. The background scenes of the populace should flow supporting the events of the main characters rather than standing away or near the walls, which, at times, stop the action. There is too much pop culture presented rather than having the actors use their creative choices to showcase a moment, move the action, or simply sing a song.  This is possibly a perfect fit for this venue but moving it to a larger house will require additional work, especially where the actors are concerned. The execution is not clear about where the actors are at times, the cave, the desert, out of the cave, near the palace, et al., possibly because my Spanish is not that great. But overall I was able to follow the story.This show will only get better with more performances under their belt.

That said, Casa 0101 is a grand showcase for actors who have dreams, for those who want to perform, and for those who want to move a craft into a direction of perfection. The productions at Casa 0101 are moving in that direction, giving hope where there was none, breaking barriers, and encouraging diversity.

The production team played an extremely important part in having the dream come to fruition.  They are as follows:

Alysha Bermudez – Sound Designer
Jerry Blackburn – Stage Manager, Asst. Musical Director
Jules Bronola – Costumes
Ramon “Rooster” Cabrera – Assistant Stage Manager
Miguel Carachure – Sound Operator
Cristina “Crispy” Carrillo-Dono – Assistant Stage Manager
Angelique Enos – Spotlight Operator
Luis Gaudi – Photographer
Cesar Holguin – Scenic Designer
Karlo Ishibashi – Prop Master
Steve Moyer Public Relations – Publicist
Sohail e. Najafi – Lighting Designer
YeeEun Nam – Projection Designer
Edward Padilla – Casting Director
Tania Possick – Choreographer – A terrific job! (need to get those tap shoes)
Vincent A. Sanchez – Associate Lighting Designer
Soap Studio Inc. – Graphic Design/Program
Gilbert Valenzuela – Production Manager
Tony Velis – Puppet Designer
George Villanueva – Spotlight Operator   

Run! Run! And take someone who loves fantasy.

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Through February 29th, 2017


  1. First off as a character that is NOT double cast and plays every night... thanks for your words of encouragement and critique... second.. thanks for the notes but as you are NOT our director I (speaking solely for myself) am inclined to disregard them.. sincerely, Evan Garcia.. The character you DIDNT miss, simply failed to mention

    1. Sorry Evan, your name was a complete oversight. I'm not sure if it was the bow tie in the program photo that threw me off, or matching your face to the character, or so many cast members. Have a nice run and keep working! And again my apologies.