It's a warm summer evening and you're ready to call it a night. You switch on the tube and what do you find? Vapid "reality" fodder and limp reruns of shows that, frankly, weren't that great the first time around. You log on to Facebook and discover your Aunt Lucy's psoriasis is acting up again. Then you close your eyes and make a wish.
"I wish I could be released from this ho-hum night and be swept away to another land, one full of catchy tunes, exotic outfits, elaborate sets and throngs of adorable, talented children."
You're suddenly transported to the sand-swept streets of Agraba, an exotic Middle Eastern burb populated by sinister parrots, sassy flying carpets and genies yearning for freedom.
It's Maui Academy of Performing Arts' "Aladdin, Jr.," brought to you by the intrepid, energetic Sum'R Musical Theater Camp kids, and it may be the most fun you'll have all summer long.
When I visited a rehearsal last week, I was met by an enthusiastic throng of young people eager to show off the fruits of tireless, rehearsal-filled weeks. Some of these kids are really young. I sent out a silent prayer of compassion to the adults responsible for keeping it all together - Director Kathleen Schultz, Choreographer Barry Brinker Jones and acting coaches Francis Tau'a, Eva Sikes and Sally Sefton Johnston. Then the show started and I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. Even with two weeks of rehearsals still to go, the young actors presented a polished, professional performance. They are completely invested in the production and they're having the time of their lives. Most of these whipper snappers have grown up watching the Disney movie version of "Aladdin" and now they have the chance to jump in and live out the fantasy. Imagine!
"The best part about it is all the people I get to meet," Kavyka Souza, who plays Aladdin, told me, "I also get excited in front of people and I love getting applause!"
When Halia Haynes discovered she'd been cast as Jasmine, she couldn't believe her luck. The role of the beautiful, strong-willed Princess is coveted by many young actresses. Halia felt humbled.
"I was excited on the inside," she explained, "I grew up watching the show and I'd always wanted to be Jasmine."
As the cast filled the intimate space with melodic, reverberating sound and the kind of authentic, exuberant movement only children can feel and exhibit, I could only imagine what it would be like when, come opening night, they burst onstage in glorious, jewel-toned costumes.
"Aladdin, Jr." is a production filled with physical comedy and quick word play. No one knows this better than Kaimana Neal, who plays the wisecracking, shape-shifting, softhearted Genie.
Neal landed the plum part after cutting his teeth as Chin Po Mulan and a monkey in Jungle Book, previous MAPA Sum'R Musical Theater productions.
"Funny's easy," he explained, "but you really have to work to be over the top."
MAPA's Sum'R Musical Theater Camp's "Aladdin, Jr." promises to be more than over the top - it's off the charts and, quite literally, all over the map. Book passage soon. Flying carpet seating space is limited.
* "Aladdin, Jr." tickets are available at the information kiosk in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. For more information, call 244-8760 or log on to www.mauiacademy.org.
Spend an enchanted evening under the stars with Maui Academy of Performing Arts' hotly anticipated production of Rogers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" at Maui Tropical Plantation. Directed by David Johnston and starring Leighanna Locke, Kathy Collins and Steven Dascoulias, the show opens July 9 and runs through July 17. Talk about a perfect date-night. Sip wine, nibble pupu and enjoy one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Tickets are available now. Call 244-8760 for more information about this "don't miss" musical featuring favorites like "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," "Bali Hai" and "Happy Talk."
Maui OnStage goes, like, totally '80s when "The Wedding Singer" opens on Friday, July 9. The stage version of popular Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film features all the painfully catchy '80s music you can handle, along with an endearing, funny story. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Aug. 1. Call 242-6969 for more information.
Theatre Theatre Maui presents "Follow That Rabbit," an updated version of Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice in Wonderland," in the Westin Maui Resort and Spa's Haleakala Ballroom July 16 to 18. Directed by Kristi Scott, the show marks the Lahaina Summer theater program's 18th year bringing high-quality theater education to the west side. The 42 cast members, ranging in age from 8 to 16, have devoted their summer days to dance, acting and voice lessons and look forward to wowing audience members from all over the island. For more information, call 661-1168 or e-mail TTMWestMaui@aol.com.