Several members of the “Aladdin”cast pose together for pictures after the show’s opening night. The first night of the Rainbow Players’ 30th anniversary production received a positive reaction from the community, bringing a nearly full house to the theatre on a Thursday night. L&T photo/Victoria Calderon
By VICTORIA CALDERON
• Leader & Times
The Rainbow Players nonprofit community theatre group brought audiences on a magic carpet ride this weekend with their performance of the dual language edition of Disney’s “Aladdin,” a special treat for their 30th anniversary show.
The show was written by the same writers who penned the original film version, with a few significant changes; they translated certain lines and lyrics to Spanish, leaving the script balanced enough that both Spanish- and English-only speakers could understand what was happening at all times.
The main conflict of the musical revolved around the language barrier erected between the common people and the royalty of Agrabah, the city-state where the plot takes place. Thanks to the evil vizier, Jafar, the royal family and guards could only speak and understand Spanish, while the streetfolk could only speak English.
From there, much of the main plotline ran closely to the movie, with minor lines and actions added for the sake of comprehension. Aladdin and Jazmín, a street urchin and a princess, meet while on the run. Aladdin was running from the authorities for stealing bread, and Jazmín left the palace because her father, the Sultan, was forcing her to choose a husband. Although they could not speak the same language, they fell in love.
Aladdin, with the help of a magic genie, impersonates a prince named Ali to marry the princess, and Jafar and his cohorts make every attempt to thwart their union. Jafar does so to gain power and control over Agrabah as the Sultan, which he cannot do if Jazmín marries “Prince Ali.”
The ending is happy, like in all Disney shows. Aladdin defeats Jafar with the help of a genie, and the Sultan allows his daughter to be with Aladdin. It was happily ever after; but not just for the characters.
After weeks of long, stressful rehearsals, the opening night of the show went smoothly for the cast and crew, according to assistant stage manager, Madelyn Sander. Stage managers coordinate backstage tasks, like changing sets, moving props and costume changes, so every aspect of the show is ready and on schedule.
“This was one of our most smooth performances backstage,” Sander said. “I think since we’ve been practicing, and with those late nights and all the hard work that was put in, it kind of pulled together tonight. It went a lot more smoothly than it had in the past.”
Actress Shelby Hay, a “royal translator” for the city of Agrabah, agreed.
“It went really well,” Hay said. “As far as the actors and everything, not much went wrong onstage.”
Opening night pulled out a large audience from the community. With over 250 tickets presold, the audience in the Showcase Theatre was nearly a full house.
“There were some empty seats, but I’m pretty sure that’s the biggest opening night crowd we’ve seen for Rainbow Players in quite a while,” director Gloria Goodwin said. “I thought it went really well. I could tell the performers were enjoying it. It makes such a difference when you have a nice, responsive audience there. You can tell it feeds (the performers’) energy, and their energy feeds back to the audience, and it’s that wonderful shared experience… I was very happy with the job they did on stage tonight.”
The days leading up to opening night were not without small disasters and challenges, however; from set pieces crashing to choreography tweaking, the show was constantly being fixed. Even mere hours before the show, there were some repairs to be done and issues to be resolved.
“We had to make a few minor adjustments before the show,” Sander said. “We had scrolls that we had to make sure wouldn’t hit footlights and catch on fire. We had to check things that could potentially be dangerous so that we could make sure every actor and every set person was completely prepped and ready to go. In regard to our set pieces, some of the challenges had to do with the fact that most of our scene changes required everything to come off and everything to come on. Cast and crew were able to come in and get that done as quickly as possible.”
Costume malfunctions were also fairly commonplace. Goodwin had to hand sew torn costumes right up to show time, and Hay had trouble getting a costume in the first place.
“We had challenges with the costuming and the fact that it’s a very unique show. There aren’t a lot of shows that have similar attire to go with it, so we had a few pieces that had to be created specifically for the show,” Sander said. “That would be one of the challenges we had help with. Ms. Goodwin has some connections she was able to pull in. We had to pull pieces from different places together to make the show look like you’re in Arabian Nights.”
Goodwin also faced some challenges with the age diversity of the cast, although she said it was a “good challenge.”
“Our youngest performer was nine,” Goodwin said. “And quite honestly I don’t often work with small children. That’s not been my directing path. Usually I’m just working with adults, or at least older students. It was a little bit of a challenge, and it was a learning curve for me too. Stephanie Drymalski, our music director, was so wonderful. She teaches music at the elementary level and middle school level, and she was just so helpful in helping me navigate those waters. When you’re doing a show like this, everybody comes together, and you form a little family. I love every one of them; there’s not a person in this cast that I don’t think is spectacular.”
Despite all the long hours and grueling rehearsals, the show was rewarding for those involved. Hay loved seeing everyone in costume; Sander liked to hear every voice come together and “bring it to life.”
“I think seeing the joy that the cast felt in getting that character or that scene or that dance number – that is always very rewarding for me to see,” Goodwin said. “We’ve been rehearsing for five weeks. People, especially in a large cast like this, come up to you and say, ‘Well, I’m not a really great dancer,’ or ‘I’m not a really great singer,’ and you put them in and they learn. As it comes together, it’s just fun to watch them get this sense of confidence that ‘I can do something I didn’t think I could do.’ And that’s the great thing about community theatre, too. You give people a chance to explore those things. I love seeing an audience enjoy a show, and I love seeing a cast enjoy the audience enjoying the show.”
Many people and entities in the community, and even outside the Liberal community, came together to make the show possible.
“First of all, we have all the moms and dads of the kids in the show who brought them to rehearsals, sometimes from far away,” Goodwin said. “So there are parents to thank, obviously, and our performers, our backstage crew, and our tech crew. The community really was wonderful. The radio station, KSCB, had us on. Radio LaMexicana had us on twice, including today. Spencer Browne’s and First National Bank sold tickets for us. We have more advertising in the program this year than ever. Seaboard Foods, they’re supplying all the dry ice for our fog machine, which is huge. It was just such a wonderful gift, and they’re so generous. Here on the campus at Seward County, all the staff have been supportive of what we’re doing. I could go on and on, but it’s a lot of people to thank. We really had a wonderful response.”
“Aladdin” has been a project that Goodwin has wanted to do for a very long time, and the dual language concept is beneficial for the entire community.
“To have people like Rainbow Players have faith in me and say, ‘Okay, it sounds like a risky concept, but we’re going to let you do it’ – that’s huge that they put that kind of trust in me. And I’m so grateful for that. I think the results are wonderful - I’m very proud of it,” Goodwin said. “I think the more opportunities you have to blend an audience and have both (Spanish and English speakers) enjoy the show, as time goes on, I think it unifies the community. And I hope we have more chances to do that.”