Aladdin swoops into Four Rivers Cultural Center this week

Members of the Four Rivers Children’s Community Theatre production of ‘Aladdin’ practice dance steps during a rehearsal last week. The musical kicks off Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Four Rivers Cultural Center. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – Magic, a genie in a bottle, palace intrigue and evil villains’ rule arrive in Ontario Thursday night.

And there’s also a love triangle, of sorts.

Oh, and a flying carpet.

All those ingredients are mixed to create three evening performances and a Saturday matinee of the Disney classic “Aladdin” at Four Rivers Cultural Center.

Performed by the Four Rivers Children’s Community Theatre, “Aladdin” opens Thursday, with evening shows Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Performances begin each night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online at 4rcc.com or at the Cultural Center gift shop.

More than 90 teenagers from areas schools will perform with three different casts, said director Ruthie Carlson.

“We have some talented, amazing kids,” said Carlson.

The performance follows Aladdin and his three friends – Babkak, Omar, Kassim – who have fallen on some tough times.

Things change for the trio when Aladdin finds a magic lamp and a magic carpet in a cave. Aladdin eventually rubs the lamp and meets a Genie who agrees to give Aladdin three wishes. Aladdin uses one of the wishes to woo Jasmine, a beautiful princess, and pledges to use one of his wishes to free the Genie.

The mixture of Aladdin, the Genie and Jasmine creates a series of challenges and adventures that are played out on stage.

For Carlson, the number of performers and the multiple casts could appear to be a challenge and she said putting the play together is rewarding, but hard work.

“We have three Aladdins, three Jasmines, three of everything. So, one night you are Aladdin and the next night you are an extra,” said Carlson.

Carlson said the hardest part about producing the play isn’t managing the cast but finding stage time to perform.

“Four Rivers is so busy. And I really try hard to choose the right times for the students. I know we are a very sports-oriented community, so I try not to do anything around playoffs,” said Carlson.

Carlson said the best thing about directing a big production like Aladdin is “seeing the kids blossom.”

“We get kids in who can hardly look up and by the end they are singing out loud and doing parts. It helps them grow so much,” said Carlson.

Carlson, who has been involved with the children’s theatre for 15 years, said the age range of the cast extends from sixth graders to high school seniors.

“The reason I did that is because the littler ones learn so much from the older ones,” said Carlson.

Finding the right motivation as an actor for a role can be difficult but two local students who play Jasmine said they gained key insights to her character.

Flavia Bruton, 18, and Indy May, 15, said they found Jasmine is more than just an animated character.

“I noticed she was a little bit sassy. She wants to be free,” said May.

Bruton said she also picked up on Jasmine’s desire to break the strict routines of palace life. She said she sees Jasmine as a character who “knows what she wants.”

“But she doesn’t quite know how to go about it,” said Bruton.

Bruton, of Vale, and May, who lives in Ontario, enjoy performing.

“We have a pretty good group here,” said Bruton.

The actor with arguably the most interesting – not to mention fun – role is Fruitland’s Connor Nelson.

Nelson, 18, plays Genie in one of the casts and said the best part about the character is “just have to be a big airhead and a free spirit.”

“You just do what you want,” said Nelson. “And it is fun to be the center of attention.”

Nelson said he really doesn’t “think a lot about” his character.

“You just go out and do things,” said Nelson. “I really like the role of Genie.”

Carlson said the cast includes students from Middleton, Caldwell, Parma, Nyssa, Weiser, Fruitland, Payette, Ontario, Vale, Harper and Willow Creek in the play.

Carlson said residents should come to see “Aladdin.”

“It is a great family activity and it is only five bucks. We are not Broadway, but you know what? We’re pretty good,” said Carlson.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-47-3377.

For the latest news, follow the Enterprise on Facebook and Twitter.

TRY A FREE SAMPLE – You can see for yourself the kind of local news reporting produced by the Malheur Enterprise with a news team focused exclusively on news that’s important to you. You can read us for free for 30 days. Signing up is easy and then you have 24/7 access to our reports. Sign up HERE. Or you can support some of the nation’s best journalism by subscribing to our digital news service for $5 a month, easy and automatic. Subscribe HERE.