December 2008

Aladdin Shines and Shimmers

Author: Paula Magrini | Photographer: Rob Kaufman

Hilton Head Prep’s holiday musical has all the dazzle of a New York Radio City Show!

Performing arts director, Don Hite, promises that Hilton Head Prep’s production of Walt Disney’s Aladdin, this December 10th, 11th and 13th, will absolutely capture all the franticness and energy of the Agra bah market place on the HHIHS Visual Performing Arts Center stage. Aladdin, Jasmine, Jafar, Iago, the Genie and a meticulously-assembled cast of 200 students will mesmerize the audience with theatrical prowess and pranks, in costumes of taffeta, lame and jewels. Marionette camels will trot about the set. Arabian desert sand will shimmer under the lights. And the magic carpet will fly through the clouds.

But wait, there’s more. Hite prefers to keep his audience guessing, yet he shares that his adaptation of the Disney favorite will feature a touching little-known musical number from an earlier Aladdin soundtrack. He’s also tapped the talents of a Beverly Hills choreographer to guide students through the show’s myriad dance configurations. The costume designer for Aladdin has outfitted models for Ralph Lauren. Bought your tickets yet?

Now presenting his third musical masterpiece at the HHIHS Visual Performing Arts Center, Hite gives credit and thanks to the support of the Hilton Head Prep community as he counts down to what may be Prep’s most ambitious musical production yet. “Our cast includes kids from kindergarten through 12th grade, and coordinating their various roles, practice schedules, costume fittings, after-hours meals and transportation, plus numerous other school activities is a mammoth juggling act,” he pointed out. “The support from parents, families and friends through Prep’s new Arts Guild has been overwhelming and translates into genuine enthusiasm among our young cast and crew.”

Aladdin’s all-student cast features eighth-grader, Taylor Calamari, in the role of Aladdin; junior, Chloe Nigro, as Princess Jasmine; senior, Joey Ryan, as Jafar; junior, Jarrett Nixon, as Iago the Parrot; and senior, Leo Magrini, portraying the Genie. Daily practices for the lead roles and entire cast began more than two months ago and were supplemented with instruction from resident artist and renowned Los Angeles choreographer, Dante Henderson. Henderson insists his contribution to Aladdin is a privilege and a way to give back the profession he loves. Seniors Joey Ryan and Leo Magrini agree that Dante’s influence has raised the bar for overall performance. “He’s danced on the same stage as Debbie Allen and made an appearance at the Academy Awards, so he knows all the latest moves,” said Ryan. Magrini added, “Since Dante’s been involved, a lot more students want to get in on the action.”

Hite has placed a big emphasis on the choreography of Aladdin, because he believes the music translates the story line. “It’s the blueprint for the production and allows us to connect meaningful movement with even the slightest flourish of a flute.” In fact, the musical aspect of Aladdin is so critical to Hite that he endured a rigorous 90-day process to acquire permission to use the song, Proud of Your Boy, in his rendition of the Disney show. The musical number was eliminated from the final film release of Aladdin, but Hite remembered the song from his days as Hollywood Records public relations rep and felt it had a significant place in Prep’s production. “Not every Aladdin can pull it off,” he said, “but Taylor Calamari gets the universal message in Proud of Your Boy and delivers it convincingly.” Hite adds that though the character Aladdin is typically portrayed as a rough street kid, at heart he is an orphan who misses his mother along his journey through the labyrinth of life in Arabia. Aladdin’s adventures find him in trouble with the law and smitten with the lovely Princess Jasmine. His fortunate encounter with the Genie and clever use of three magic wishes propel him—and his Agra bah comrades—to a “Whole New World.”

Because it’s best known as an animated film, Aladdin’s characters are typically recognized as cartoon characters. Finding the perfect match for them might be a challenge, if that was actually the goal. Hite explained that his criteria for casting choices was based on what each student could bring to the stage. Could they make the character real? Jarrett Nixon, starring as Iago, has a theory on rising to the role. “It’s all in our heads,” he said. “If we really believe we are the character, whether it’s a parrot or a precocious teenager in High School Musical, then we can convince the audience that we are the personality behind the costume.”

When the curtain rises on Aladdin’s remarkable cast, an equally impressive crew working in the wings will ensure the smooth coordination of stunning scenery, intricate props and lavish costumes. The stage crew includes both student and parent volunteers and a costume designer, whose distinctive touch and eye for detail have enhanced a wide range of visual performance around the world. Caroline Noble has provided authentic vintage pieces to the British film and television industry in productions such as Evita and Merchant Ivory. Famed rock and roll stars have knocked on Noble’s door for costume direction, along with notable designers, like Lauren, in the couture fashion industry. No stranger to the demands of fantastical productions like this December’s Aladdin, Noble admits her hours are numbered as show time approaches. “The sheer number of cast members is mind-boggling,” she said. “Every grade level of actors and actresses requires different themed costumes and accessories, so my daily to-do list is, to say the least, vast!”

No doubt the applause following each performance of Aladdin will mirror the energy and efforts of director Hite, choreographer Henderson, designer Noble as well as those of the cast, crew and Prep families who have all played a role in bringing to life Disney’s magical tale of the diamond in the rough.

For ticket information, please call: (843) 671-2278, ext. 278, or visit Prep’s website at hhprep.org.

Aladdin by Numbers

How many does it take to make Aladdin happen?

14 Baby-elephant outfits for kindergarten cast members
30 Golden-treasures-in-the-cave-of-wonders sacks to be carried by first grade performers
30 Arabian-style horseback riding ensembles for second grade equestrians
30 snake-charmer sheaths and serpents (artificial) for brave third graders
30 blue mini-genie costumes with top hats and golden canes…fourth grade wish granters
30 Puppet-masters operating camel and other marionettes PLUS
300 exotic ostrich feathers
100 exotic peacock feathers
120 yards golf lame and taffeta
30 cans gold spray paint
20 tubes of glitter/sequins, jewels
60 pairs of harem-girl pants
50 handmade lame turbans for assorted sultans
30 pairs grey sweatpants, dyed Genie-blue
30 white turtle-necks, dyed Genie-blue
30 pairs tights, dyed fluorescent yellow
30 T-shirts, dyed florescent yellow
30 snake-charming pipes, constructed of aluminum piping and gold paint by fourth grade dad

…plus unlimited hours of stitching, beading, spraying, gluing, painting, fluffing, fitting, refitting and eventually, tah-dah!

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