Sunday, December 31, 2006

Aladdin

Blue Monkey Theater Co.
Posted by Followspot December 29, 2006; closes December 31, 2006

Plastic tween-park theater. Cheesy book, unimpressive score piped from lifeless compu-orchestra didn’t pare well with natural young talent. More uneven-tracing than coloring-outside-the-lines. What worked: cast’s lively complicity, most (Bryan Hunt, particularly) ready for bigger, bolder. Monkey has potential to be Portland’s missing link by focusing exclusively on teens, young adults.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

The cast had a lot of heart, but overall it was disappointing. The book was needlessly cheesy and the sound was off (I found it hard to hear some of the singers, even in that small space). Bryan Hunt did the best he could as Aladdin and Kelsey Glasser's acting was fine as Jasmine but her singing voice was just not strong enough. I'll be interested to see how they pull off High School Musical and Zombie Prom; do they have enough strong singers? Judging by this production, they do not.

And speaking of their season, I'm not sure I get how shows like Aladdin, High School Musical and Zombie Prom "expand the vision of what theater for young people is and can be" as it says in their mission statement. But maybe that's just me. And it's their first season, so I'm sure they're more worried about building an audience and bringing in some revenue.

It would be nice if they could corner the teen market for theater in Portland, both in terms of the people who see the shows and the people who perform them. OCT doesn't seem to use them very often, if at all and NWCT only uses them in half their shows. So it's be cool if Blue Monkey kept their focus mostly on teens.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can judge the performance on the book persay..it was written for middle schoolers "Aladdin Jr." I found Bryan Hunt rather boring to watch on stage. I really enjoyed Jeff Haffenr's performance as The Genie. I think things can only go uphill from here.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I wondered if it were a "junior" version -- even went to check out the MTI site -- but Blue Monkey omitted that from all the marketing.

But you could tell the difference if you saw both B&B and Aladdin -- performances aside, the quality of the book and the score is evident, especially considering both shows came from most of the same creators and distributed both by MTI .... but Aladdin comes across as overly simplified.

Does MTI offer a regular non-junior version? I couldn't find it on the Web site.

Anonymous said...

Yeah MTI has another Aladdin, but it's a whole different plot. Theres no b&b junior...so the book for b&b was written for proffesional theater companies, rather than Aladdin Jr. seems to be more geared elementry/jr. high schoolers. I think Blue Monkey was trying to re-create the Disneyland version of the show. It ought to say somewhere that it is the "Jr" version.

Anonymous said...

"It ought to say somewhere that it is the "Jr" version."

Why? Would it have somehow changed the show that you saw? The acting? The design elements? Not at all. It was a fun show with a solid cast. And really, that's all you can ask for from a show.

Anonymous said...

I was torn. I went to see both B&B as well as Aladdin to get a feel for the new directions each theater company was striving for.

I found that Aladdin had MUCH more heart with the young actors genuinely enjoying their time on stage. As inspired as I found the chorus to be, I found Hunt to be too much and enjoyed Glasser's acting rather than her singing. But it was Haffner that really stole the show for me. His timing was superb and his improv was spot on.

Looking around the audience at B&B vs. Aladdin was interesting as well. It seemed to me the younger kids were more thoroughly entertained at Aladdin, while the adults were more enthralled with B&B. Interested to see where these two respective companies go.

Overall, I wish the very best for Blue Monkey because Monteverde deserves a nice, well working theater company to nurture.

Anonymous said...

I've directed other MTI Jr. shows, and that is a big oops on th epart of Blue Monkey - the actual title of the show is "Disney's Aladdin Jr.", and they are contractually obligated to list it this way in all materials. . . they are already too high profile to do something so risky, and could easily be dinged. I realize that many theatres play fast & loose with licensing details, but that's a biggie, since there IS no non-junior version of the show.

I can also say, from experience, that with the right sound system, the accompaniment tracks are quite passable. I know there is the endless debate about canned music, and we all wish we could afford to have 30 union players in the pit for every show. . . but these shows were designed for schools with zero budget. . . to be honest, I'm not quite sure why MTI licensed an actual theatre company to do the show. . . if they actually did.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure they just realeased Aladdin Jr. to proffesional theater companies.

Anonymous said...

Yes - you're right. After I wrote that, I emailed my MTI rep and he said that they negotiate with professional companies on a case-by-case basis. Schools just pay a flat fee.

Anonymous said...

You are correct. . . just after I posted that, I e-mailed my MTI rep, who told me that they now license the Junior shows to professional houses and negotiate the contracts on a case-by-case basis. Public schools still just pay a flat fee.

Anonymous said...

Also, what was up with the tickets being $22? I went on a 2-for-1 night so only paid $11 but I didn't seen anything up there that would make it cost so much. The sets, costumes and lights were fairly simple and the cast was mostly teens, so what gives?

Anonymous said...

anon 2:43, bmtc is a brand new company. it's understandable that they'd need to up the prices for the first show of the first season... and the costumes were anything but simple.

Mdk said...

I would guess that the company is also trying to support a professional (i.e., paid) staff in at least Montaverde if not others .... That alone bumps ticket prices from those that operate exclusively with volunteers.

Anonymous said...

I think the tickets must've been that much because the rights to the show were so expensive, because it's Disney. It says that they have lowered their ticket prices for Romeo and Julier to 16$ for youth, and 20$ for adults..but on the Myspace it also says somthing about if you bring your student ID card you get in for 10$. So they are making some improvement.

Anonymous said...

for one, the staff of blue monkey is NOT being paid, the entire revenue is going to support their season. also, the whole second half of the run was 2 -for-1 night. and being their first production, they need as much revenue as possible. and also, disney charges a huge amount, which partially explains the high prices.

Anonymous said...

Disney isn't the one charging them anything - MTI is. Maybe someone with connections could determine what a professional company would have charged them for the rights. Remember that ticket prices, seating capcity and length of run are all factors.

Anonymous said...

Since MTI is a licensing agency, they act as an intermediary between theaters and the composers, etc. who own the rights to the material. In their capacity as licensing agent, MTI consulted with Disney to determine the amount they would charge Blue Monkey to produce this show. So it is essentially accurate to say that Disney is setting the rate.

Anonymous said...

Either way $22 a seat is alot to ask to essentially watch untrained kids on stage...I'm all for supporting the next generation and all but it's hard to pay that much to see a show you know will be flawed.

Anonymous said...

You don't find flaws interesting and instructive?

I can think of a flawless show or two on which I had just as soon have passed.

If you know you're going to be seeing youthful, inexperienced performers, I would think you would adjust your expectations accordingly. Then, in the unlikely event that they turn out to be "flawless," so much the better.

Anonymous said...

"I can think of a flawless show or two on which I had just as soon have passed."


Er . . . make that "over which I would just as soon have passed."

Anonymous said...

Well, looking through the bios, the kids don't seem to be untrained...Jasmine, played by Kelsey Glasser, is going to NYU next fall, and many of them have done other work before. However, not all of them are trained I'm guessing. But, no matter where you go such as Northwest Children's Theater for example, there are plenty of un-trained kids up there. I don't think it should mattter if they are trained are not, it's if they can pull it off. And Aladdin over all pulled it off, but...there's always room for some improvment. I'm crossing my fingers for High School Muscial--because if they mess that one up they can say good bye to their audience.

Anonymous said...

The Blue Monkey adult actors are paid - not equity rates or anything, but a pretty decent stipend...

Anonymous said...

all of the actors/crew were paid, just not the staff itself

Anonymous said...

I was really unimpressed with this show. Given some of John Monteverde's previous work, it was very disappointing. He has done great work in the past, so I was expecting more than I got. Of course, he had a rough summer and starting a new company is a lot of work, but I still think he could've put more into casting the show well. Grant Turner definitely stole the show. He was perfect, but I've seen him elsewhere and he's always impressed me. Jeff Haffner's Genie was pretty good, but a little too hammed up for me. I thought Brian Hunt's singing was perfect and he should be kept around for when they do High School Musical. He would be able to pull off the role of Troy well.

Speaking of High School Musical, I'm very frightened to see how they'll do it, because the original movie was amazing, but if John doesn't get a perfect cast, with spot-on singing and dancing, he's going to butcher the show. Given what I saw in Aladdin, High School Musical is not going to go off well. They are going to have to bring in someone like Kirk Mouser to do the singing/dancing, because while John can direct actors, he doesn't always get the singing and choreography of a show down.

The other question is if there IS enough talent in town to be put in to HSM. John is going to have a lot of pressure on him, so he'd better start looking for cast members now. And they'd better be really good, or he'll get no audience, you can bet on it.

I'm curious to see his Italian Carnival version of R&J coming up soon. With the absolute zero talent of Cameron Peart, I wonder how this will work.

Anonymous said...

To the previous poster: Pretty bold of you to claim that Cameron Peart has "zero talent." Unless you have seen her before in a show. Let's see if she proves you wrong. I do agree that John needs to find someone who knows vocals well, but I do believe the man who coreographed Aladdin is comming back to do High School Musical, and from the dancing in Aladdin, it looks like he's pretty talented; so with the whole basketball number thing I have complete trust that the dancing will be good. Bryan Hunt, sure, his singing is good, but his acting? Are you kidding me Aladdin was a snoozefest with his acting. I also agree that High School Musical puts a lot of stress on the company. I think everyone and their grandmother wants to audition, and I'm sure there will be a lot of turn out at the auditions. I hope he dosen't mis-cast, maybe he should try not casting on looks for once? Nothing is ever like the movie, and the script for the stage version includes new characters and new songs (says MTI) but I guess all we have to do is wait and see what happens. I wish him all the luck.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am curious about the "zero talent" comment about Cameron Peart. You must have seen her in something that I missed. I thought she was charming in Frog and Toad and NWCT last year and really enjoyed her work in Moby Dick the Musical last summer. I'm looking forward to Blue Monkey's Romeo and Juliet, since they're actually using young people to portray the young characters. I'm tired of seeing mid-twenties actors trying to pull of 15 and 16 years old. It's my understanding that they're working in collaboration with Portland Actors Ensemble, which could be an interesting blend of seasoned Shakespeare talent and youthful energy. I'm going to reserve judgement until I see it, which seems the best idea.

Anonymous said...

to the comment about cameron peart, i am genuinely curious to know what shows you have seen her in.

Sandra said...

Bryan Hunt did the best he could as Aladdin and Kelsey Glasser's acting was fine as Jasmine but her singing voice was just not strong enough. I'll be interested to see how they pull off High School Musical and Zombie Prom; do they have enough strong singers? Judging by this production, they do not.