There’s nothing like magic to appeal to kids, which may account for the 72 young people between 2nd and 8th grade who auditioned for the South Valley Civic Theatre production of Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.”
Director Carol Harris cast 49 young actors for the musical, which opens Sept. 21 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse.
“We called and they came,” said Harris. “They wanted to see the magic, do the magic.”
The play is a stage version of the 1992 Disney film, Aladdin, which in turn is based on a Middle Eastern folk tale from “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.” It tells the story of a street kid in Agrabah who falls in love with the sultan’s daughter and what they must each do to escape the lives they seem preordained to live.
“Junior” versions of the Disney shows are shortened to a running time of about 70 minutes, which means the songs are quick and the action quicker. The biggest challenge for the director is keeping her large, youthful cast occupied during rehearsals.
“One of the tricks is you have to be prepared so you can keep them busy,” said Harris. She splits up rehearsal time between herself and choreographer Jennifer Grifall so everyone is occupied.
The show stars 11-year-old Oliver Kaelin in the title role.
Oliver is a member of a Morgan Hill family which keeps busy on the community theater stage: his father, Michael, was recently seen in Guys and Dolls, which was directed by his mother, Myra. His sister Ginger also is cast in Aladdin Jr. and sister Lucy was in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
“I get to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new friends,” said Oliver.
The biggest challenge in playing Aladdin is that “he lies a lot,” said Oliver. And then there’s keeping a straight face when Aladdin is being chewed out by other characters. Another challenge: keeping his balance on a “magic carpet.”
“The trick is to stay on it, especially with two people, and singing,” he said.
Balanced on the magic carpet with Oliver is 12-year-old Jillian Puente. Princess Jasmine, Jillian said, is rightfully angry with her father the sultan’s restrictions on her freedom.
“I can’t blame her,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the palace your whole life.”
P.J. Crocker makes his SVCT debut as the villainous Jafar, a fun role because “you get to mess with others on stage, be in power for a while and then get knocked off.”
Crocker has appeared in four shows produced by the city of Gilroy.
Jillian’s mother, Jennifer Puente, is the show’s producer, a position she describes as filling in for every job as needed, from helping with costumes to handling the show’s expenses.
“We’re fortunate to have the support of the community,” she said.
South Valley Civic Theatre presents ‘Aladdin Jr.’ Sept. 21-Oct. 20 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey St, Morgan Hill. Tickets $25, $20 seniors, $16 youth; 800.838.3006. For more information: svct.org.