The colorful bilingual adaptation of Disney’s “Aladdin” on stage at CASA0101 in Boyle Heights transports theater audiences into “a whole new world,” where cultural, economic and language barriers are broken down through the power of love.
The play – with lively music and dialogue in English and Spanish – speaks to the importance of tolerance for those from different backgrounds; timely subject matter in today’s era of political and social discourse.
Yet, the production is fanciful fun, joyous rather than heavy-handed.
Lea este artículo en Español: Aladino Bilingüe: Un Cuento Oportuno de Tolerancia
True to the classic story, “Disney’s Aladdin Dual Language Edition” takes place in the fictional land of Agrabah, where the villainous Jafar has used a wish granted by a Genie to make it so castle royalty only speak Spanish, while the kingdom’s citizens speak only English.
At a performance last Friday, the audience was filled with children and parents eager to watch a play they could all understand. For some, it was their first exposure to live theater, for others it was a chance to watch a classic tale told in their native language.
To set the scene, the play – beautifully directed by Rigo Tejeda – opens with “Arabian Nights,” the iconic score from the original production that in this new version features lyrics in both English and Spanish.
When Princess Jazmin is forced to choose a suitor to marry, she runs away from the castle and soon meets a common street urchin named Aladdin at the local market. But Jafar’s wish has left them unable to speak to one another without help from Aladdin’s monkey and companion Abu and Princess Jazmin’s pet tiger Rajah, who serve as translators for the two characters and the audience.
Although the dialogue and plot are easy to figure out, even if you speak only English or Spanish, the production enlists a trio of royal translators who pop up throughout the play, filling in any gaps with seamless translations of their own.
“I don’t understand English 100 percent, but I understood this play completely,” Guadalupe Acosta of Pico-Union happily told EGP in Spanish following the show.
Overcoming language barriers was also a challenge for some of the actors, including Lewis Powell III who did not speak Spanish before taking on the role of Genie, but you’d never know it judging by the laughs he garnered for nailing well-timed jokes and properly using common Spanish sayings.
“Escandalo!” Genie yells out when he first meets Aladdin, quickly following up with “you the boss,” speaking in manner familiar to people who are bilingual and routinely weave the two languages together in their conversations.
The diversity of the cast also plays to the theme that no matter what language a person speaks, their economic class or their shape or size, everyone is equal and deserving of compassion.
“It doesn’t matter what a dividing tyrant does, in the end, love is all that’s needed to overcome barriers,” Valeria Maldonado, who plays Jazmin told EGP.
Maldonado grew up speaking English and Spanish at home, including during the 20 years she lived in Mexico. She told EGP she feels blessed that this story is being told during a time when immigrants in this country are being negatively targeted by the new Trump Administration.
This version of Aladdin celebrates being bilingual and speaking different languages, Conrado Terrazas, one of the show’s four producers and district director for Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo told EGP.
“We want to promote the theater-going experience among Spanish speakers,” he explained, adding he hopes that by seeing people who look like them, the children will be inspired to regularly attend theater performances.
On Friday, families from the Salvation Army’s youth center were treated to a complimentary performance.
Patty Gastelum, who works at the center, told EGP she expects this unique experience will allow for a dialogue among Spanish-speaking parents and their children, like Ada Salazar and her 7-year old granddaughter Bleu.
“I understand English but speak Spanish, she understands Spanish but speak English,” Salazar told EGP in Spanish. “We both were able to enjoy the show and she [Bleu] saw that being bilingual is something positive,” said Salazar about the dual-language production.
Presented in association with Councilman Cedillo, “Disney’s Aladdin Dual Language Edition” runs through Feb. 19 on the main stage at CASA0101: 2102 E. First St., L.A.90033 (3 blocks west of the Metro Gold Line Soto Street Station).
For tickets or more information, click here.