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Children's theater takes 'Aladdin' in new direction

| Thursday, June 12, 2008

Young audiences who loved Disney's popular animated movie "Aladdin" will be taking a magic carpet ride in a different direction with the Johnny Appleseed Children's Theater production of the same name.

The stage show opening Tuesday at Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont doesn't feature the voice of Robin Williams as the wacky genie or the popular romantic melody "A Whole New World" that helped make the cartoon feature a box-office hit.

Instead, the Apple Hill version contains new music and digs deeper into the relationship between Aladdin and his mother.

"Aladdin's mother is just very concerned about her son," says Maria Bruno, 18, of Apollo, who plays the maternal role that she says adds some comedic relief to the production. "Whenever the genie comes in, she falls to the floor and passes out."

Although the play has similarities to the Disney movie, Bruno says there are differences that make it unique.

"We don't have a Jafar character (the villain); we have a magician, instead. We have a Genie of the Lamp and a Genie of the Ring," she says. "It puts a different twist on 'Aladdin.' It's an all-around fun show."

There's another reason that Bruno is having fun performing in this Apple Hill production that opens the Johnny Appleseed Children's Theater's summer season. "Aladdin" is being directed by her sister, Alyssa Bruno, 20, a junior majoring in musical theater at Point Park University.

It isn't difficult being directed by an older sister, according to Maria. In fact, she says she is enjoying it.

"I feel I can be more open with her," says the young actress. Maria, a graduate of Kiski Area High School, will begin her studies this fall at Seton Hill University, where she plans to concentrate on musical theater and business.

"Aladdin" is the second show that Alyssa Bruno has directed. She also led the cast of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" last summer for the children's theater. Her acting experience includes playing the leading role of Belle in Kiski's production of "Beauty and the Beast" during her senior year.

"There's a mutual respect between us," Alyssa says about directing her sister in "Aladdin." "I know what the end product will be with her. There's a trust there."

Three more children's classics will follow "Aladdin" at Apple Hill this summer: "Winnie the Pooh," July 8-18; "Cinderella," July 22-Aug. 1; and "The Elves and the Shoemaker," Aug. 5-15. Through June 17, the theater is offering 10 Flex Coupons for $57.50 that can be can be used by adults or children for any performance, subject to availability. Reservations are required.

Additional Information:

'Aladdin'

When: June 17-27, with performances at 11 a.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays

Admission: $7; $6 for children; group rates available

Where: Apple Hill Playhouse , Manor Road, Delmont

Details: 724-468-5050

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