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Waterworks Players present Aladdin

You may think you know the story of Aladdin, a tale of a street rat who is granted three wishes from a Genie of the Lamp. But this year’s holiday pantomime production of “Aladdin,” by Waterworks Players makes a delightfully different take on a children’s yarn popularized by Disney.

As a beloved form of theatre in the British Isles, pantomimes are melodramatic presentations of familiar nursery rhymes or children’s tales that combine song, dance, and slapstick comedy.

Mary Jo Stockton, director of “Aladdin,” notes that the “show isn’t a quiet and polite theatre-going experience. Rather the audience, ranging in age from two to eighty, interacts with the cast — sometimes in planned events, sometimes in spontaneous reactions — throughout the performance.”

The actors expect and encourage this back-and-forth interaction. In some productions the story villain will squirt the audience with water guns, while other cast members might throw candy to children.

Waterworks’ first pantomine was “Puss In Boots,” in 2006.

“I thought we were going to need plants in the audience to make it work for an American audience but, as a native Brit, I was amazed at how it seemed to come naturally,” Stockton said. “The kids just loved it and had no trouble figuring out how to participate. After 10 years, we now have established a Southside Virginia tradition.”

Part of the charm for older audience members is that these shows include jokes based on current events and local connections.

“We edit the script to keep jokes current and to tailor dialogue for our community,” Stockton said.

Waterworks’ production of Suzan Holder’s “Aladdin,” is a trip back in time but not as far back as you might expect — the usual antics will play out but the characters are straight out of the Eighties. The lead character Aladdin (Elijah Logue) believes there’s more to life than washing dirty socks in the Twankey laundry, run by his mother the Widow Twankey (John Burton) and his brother Wishee Washee (Krishon Preston) and with the help of Soapy Sophie (Christy Moore). Aladdin’s life changes when seeing the Princess Jasmine (Kolby Grimsley), whom Aladdin falls instantly in love despite the objections of her parents the Sultan (Josh Davis) and Sultana (Kalimah Patricia Carter). Princess Jasmine also has another suitor, the evil Abanazar (Greg Tsigaridas) who is served by two henchmen Shish (Christian Huggard) and Shwarma (Leigh Lunsford). With the help of a big-headed Genie of the Lamp (Pam Wright) and a Ring Genie named Jennie (Sheri Davenport), Aladdin takes on Abanazar in this magical adventure.

The cast also includes an ensemble of memorable characters including Scheherazade (Ava Janowski), two police officers PC Kung Fu (Penny Dorsey) and Officer Tai Chi (Emma Leonard), palace guards (Sarabeth Roberts and Cierra Jeffers), ladies in waiting (Vivian Gearheart, Autumn Shook, and Cally Vogel), and a chorus (Kailynn Hamilton, Elle Franssen, and Laura Boyett).

Tickets are going as fast as a genie’s three wishes. Make reservations now for the whole family to attend Waterworks Players’ production of Aladdin. Performances are Friday Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., Saturday Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Friday Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., and Saturday Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. You can obtain tickets by calling the box office at (434) 392-3452 or visiting the Waterworks web site: http://waterworksplayers.org.