A page is about to be turned on the first book of The Arabian Nights when a bad-to-the bone genie is once again let loose from his lamp.
Vernon Secondary School drama students are about to enact one of the more popular pantomimes when they present Aladdin at the school’s Theatre on the Hill.
This Geoff Bamber-penned panto features two casts (B and C), and even a song-and-dance number to keep audiences on their toes.
As this is a pantomime, also known as a panto, there’s a certain “messing” with well-known characters as well as audience participation, said VSS drama teacher Laurie Ann Lorge, who is directing the production.
“It’s one of the few genres where the kids can be bold,” said Lorge. “When they give me more, then I can pull back. It’s fun for the kids and teenagers. There’s nothing really deep.”
Opening with the surf rock number Misirlou by Dick Dale, made famous in the film Pulp Fiction, VSS’ version of Aladdin is described as being a cross between modern and post-modern.
It also features those well-known panto tropes: the altering of known character personas and the over-acting. There’s also the breaking of the fourth wall, where the audience is encouraged to voice its disfavour of the villain or cheer on the hero.
In this case, the villain and hero are not exactly easy to identify, say cast B students Austin Wells, Tynisha Smith and Tyler Riva, who are all in Grade 12.
Not far off from the Disney portrayal of the title character, Aladdin is a bit of a layabout, but in this case, the ladies love him, said Smith, who is having a ball playing an invented character named Ameera.
“Aladdin has a younger sister. I play his companion instead of the monkey,” explained Smith.
There’s also a cross-dressed character, Aladdin’s mom, and also the nerdy and rather effeminate Grand Vizier’s son, Leopold, who is arranged to marry the emperor’s daughter, Princess Yasmin.
“He tries to portray his masculinity, but it doesn’t really work,” said Wells, who as Leopold gets to engage in a sword fight with Aladdin.
Even the emperor’s guards are more of a marching band than brothers in arms.
“The guards don’t like to fight. We have a singing army, except none of us can sing,” said Riva, who plays the sergeant.
The aforementioned song-and-dance number is actually a rap, written by student Rhiannon Lutzke, where Riva gets to show off his MCing skills.
Then there’s the genie, who enters the scene to George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone.
“The genie is more like a bad boy. He is a women seducer, a ladies’ man, at least he tries to be,” said Smith.
Audiences can also expect to hear the love theme from Titanic (My Heart will Go On), the theme from Star Wars and other popular tunes.
“We have used recognizable music to warm up the audience,” said Lorge. “We play with every form of modern music and old fashioned customs.”
Aladdin opens at VSS’ Theatre on the Hill (2100 15th St., Vernon). Cast B performances are Jan. 17 and 20 and Cast C is Jan. 18 and 21. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.