Disney musical Aladdin Jr. is a childhood memory for many, and it will soon be presented on-stage at the Gateway Theatre by a group of local child actors.
“I found that there are so many talents in Richmond, but many of their works are compromised due to limited funding,” said Lily Yuan, show producer and founder of the Children’s Choir of Richmond.
“I wanted to create an opportunity for them to produce a high-quality show for the local audience.”
Yuan first had the idea when she watched her daughter’s school play, Beauty and the Beast, at Pythagoras Academy, directed by musical theatre teacher Emma Swords.
“I thought, ‘wow the play is so great and the director is so gifted,’” recalled Yuan.
“I went to Emma one day after school and said to her, ‘I want to produce a great children’s musical with you and bring it to the community.’ That was how the musical got started.”
The production team purchased a theatrical license from Disney for Aladdin Jr., including all the original music and the plot.
More than 50 young actors were selected out of hundreds of applications, including 20 from 15 schools in Richmond. And they all received free theatre training.
Neil Hong, 12, and Victoria Kazantseva, 13, will play the main characters Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.
“They will sing, dance and talk on-stage. This will be a great experience for the children and I believe it will have a positive impact on them long-term,” said Yuan.
A highlight of the musical, is the stage backdrops, produced by a Richmond-based professional design team, inspired by Disney Adventure Park and Broadway Aladdin Musical. 11 high-tech 3D backdrops were created, and will change during the show according to the plot needs.
“The camel is walking, the stars in the sky are winking, the clouds are moving, and the sea is making waves…with the actor’s performance, they will showcase a real dream stage scene for the audience,” said Yuan.
Technology also makes Aladdin and Princess Jasmine fly on the magic carpet. As to how Genie comes out of Aladdin’s lamp, Yuan said it remains a secret.
The costumes were purchased online and converted into Aladdin-themed clothes by a group of parents and volunteers, including a tiger costume.
After half a year of preparation, the show will hit the stage on Jan. 7 at 6:30 p.m. But for Yuan and her team, this is just the beginning —they hope to create more shows for the community.
“I hope to make it an annual show and one of Richmond’s signature events. When people talk about Richmond, they know there is great children’s theatre,” said Yuan.
She also plans to rent out all the costumes to theatres of local schools for free in the future, so more children can enjoy it on stage.
“Together, we can create a more active art atmosphere in Richmond,” Yuan said.