A whole new world
When the curtain closed on Wild Horse Children’s Theater’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. last summer, the company was high on its success. It had been their first production at the Carson City Community Center’s 783-seat theater—intimidatingly large for a children’s production—and they had exceeded their expectations. It was time to reserve the venue for 2016.
But what show to do? How could they take full advantage of this space?
By flying, that’s how.
They got hold of the show kit for Disney’s Aladdin Jr. and set about raising funds to hire Flying By Foy, the world-renowned, Las Vegas-based theatrical flying service company, whose flying effects have been seen in the likes of Cirque du Soleil and Broadway’s Peter Pan.
“It was never any question what company we wanted for this,” said Carol Scott, executive director for Wild Horse Children’s Theater and director of this show. “They are the best, the most reliable, the safest.”
The Wild Horse team set a goal to raise $5,000 to bring in Foy’s help with Aladdin, and they kicked off a raffle fundraising campaign in fall 2015. By March, they’d met their goal, and they’ve since surpassed it, raising enough to purchase a $1,200 spotlight, too.
Disney’s Aladdin Jr. is a condensed, kid-friendly version of the Broadway show. With a cast of 85 kids, ages 5-18, it will feature favorite songs from the movie (with musical direction by Alan Catron), as well as spectacular choreography by assistant director and choreographer Robin Kato-Brong and gorgeous costumes by Jennifer Hoffman. Not to mention plenty of aerobatics, smoke effects, puppetry and a flying magic carpet that will give both Aladdin and Jasmine the ride of their lives.
Having so many actors enables the company to double-cast the ensemble parts as well as the most highly sought-after role, Princess Jasmine (played by Cassia Giustra and Cassidy Buchan). Aladdin (Trenton Lynn), the Genie (Max Worden), Jafar (Joseph Campbell) and the Sultan of Agrabah (Cole Hanks) will be played by only one actor each. Puppeteer Alexa Haight will handle the wisecracking parrot, Iago.
Douglas High School sophomore Rebekah Swearingen, a 15-year-old dancer and gymnast who has been performing since age two and studying under her gymnast parents, holds the coveted role of magic carpet.
“The magic carpet doesn’t speak, so I’m pantomiming, and all my movements have to be really big,” Swearingen said. “There’s a lot of tumbling and acrobatics. I’ll be doing aerials, back handsprings, leg holds.”
Reno theater-goers may have caught 18-year-old Carson High graduate Max Worden in other roles—he’s been acting locally since age four. Now he takes a turn as the big blue Genie in Aladdin, Jr. He’s paying homage to Robin Williams in this performance. And he’ll indeed pop out of a lamp, through a cloud of smoke.
“It’s going to be a fantastic show,” Worden said. “This company is very dedicated. It’s the most professional children’s company I’ve ever worked with.”
As Wild Horse Children’s Theater heads into its tenth year, Scott is beaming with pride.
“We really do demand professionalism from our actors, even the 5-year-olds, and it shows in our productions,” she said. “We like to continue elevating our productions, to keep raising the bar. I just don’t know how we can raise it from here!”