New Castle News

March 4, 2010

ON STAGE: ‘Aladdin Jr.’ to make magic at Playhouse

By Dan Irwin — Audra Moesta is hoping to create some magic.

And she’ll be relying on more than just a genie to do it.

Moesta is directing the New Castle Playhouse Youth Theatre production of “Aladdin Jr.,” which opens tomorrow. And while it is the job of The Genie to amaze his fellow characters on stage, Moesta believes her entire 38-member cast has the ability to do the same for folks in the seats.

“They have worked really hard, they’re doing a fabulous job,” she said of her group, members of which range in age from 8 to 18 (with a couple of adults tossed in here and there). The music is not simple music, and they’ve really tackled that and conquered that. I’m so proud of them.

“It’s Disney,” she went on, “so obviously you’re going to have the color, the excitement and the familiarity to the public, and the musical score is really great. It’s going to be a fun time.”

And The Genie’s mystical moments?

“We can’t tell you that,” Moesta said of the production’s special effects. “You’ll have to come and see all of our stage secrets. I think we do well.

“It’s a youth production, not a Disney production. If we had that budget, we could do all kinds of things. But we do make him appear, we make Jafar disappear, so there are some things going on that you definitely get the illusion that that’s happening.”

The plot of the musical, Moesta said, is the same as Disney’s “Aladdin,” as is the message: “Be yourself.”

That works well for 15-year-old Nick Kerpsack, who plays Aladdin. He sees some similarities between himself and his character.

“I’m sly, I’m slick, so just go with the flow,” he said.

Kerpsack’s stage background includes appearing in “Oliver!” at Cain Park — a summer performing arts park near Cleveland — as well as performances with Easy Street Productions at Youngstown’s Powers Auditorium. He’s also a member of the New Castle Playhouse Mini Stars and aspires to an acting career.

Aladdin, though, is one of his first lead roles, and it’s been a learning experience.

“You just learn facial expressions and things like that, ways to bring out the emotions that you know the character has in that particular scene,” he said. “I’ve learned how to do that a little bit more.”

Kenzie Palmer, who plays Jasmine, also is a Mini Stars member. The 15-year-old was introduced to the Playhouse in sixth grade at one of the theater’s Rising Star Workshops, and made her New Castle debut as Louisa in “The Sound of Music.”

Her first musical, though, was “Aladdin” at the Youngstown Playhouse.

“I was a harem girl, but I always wanted to be Jasmine after that,” she said.

She got her wish. However, the role is not without its difficult moments.

“It’s challenging to me because at the beginning of the play, she’s more stubborn and kind of headstrong,” said Palmer, who also dreams of a career on the stage. “I’m not her. That’s not my personality.

“Usually, before I go on stage, I just think of what she’s going through and I just try to put her into me.”

“Aladdin Jr.” also is a new experience for Moesta, who is directing her first youth musical. She admits to feeling her way through some of the process, but said she couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

“There were a lot of things I had to learn as I went,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot of the technical end through this process. But it was definitely worth it and satisfying.

“I’m very excited, and I’m very proud of it and really looking forward to seeing the final product.”