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Bemidji Community Theater: 'Aladdin Jr.' to open April 9

Paul Bunyan Playhouse and Bemidji Community Theater will present Disney's "Aladdin Jr." at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. The play will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 9, and Saturday, April 10, and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and Sunday, April 11. Elaborate costumes and impressive backdrops will highlight the magic. In the foreground are, from left, Sean Conlon, Bridget Stomberg and Patricia Heart. In the background are, from left, Renae Spangler, Paul Conklin, Ernie Rall and Hannah Marty. Pioneer Photo...

Mary Knox-Johnson has traveled a long road beginning three years ago to bring Disney's "Aladdin Jr." to Bemidji.

Knox-Johnson, who is a board member of Bemidji Community Theater, began negotiating with Disney because "Aladdin Jr." was written to be performed by grade school students and BCT wanted to include high school students and a few adults. Because of Knox-Johnson's persistence in this effort, BCT was able to obtain the rights to produce this show in collaboration with the Paul Bunyan Playhouse.

The Disney musical will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 9, with two performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and the last public performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 11. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students 17 and younger and may be purchased now at Iverson Corner Drug in downtown Bemidji and at Ken K. Thompson at the Paul Bunyan Mall. If available, tickets will be sold at the door starting one hour before each show time. All performances will be at the historic Chief Theatre, 314 Beltrami Ave. N.W. There will also be performances for area schools.

"I chose this show because of the universality of the story and the wonderful concepts contained in the song, 'A Whole New World,'" said Knox-Johnson.

The team of Director Knox-Johnson, Musical Director Karen Bradley, Accompanist Wayne Hoff and Choreographer Krista Grover all worked together in the BCT-Paul Bunyan Playhouse collaboration "Pirates of Penzance." They called upon the scenic design and construction master Dwayne Johnson, who has built more than 75 sets, to transform the stage into a sultan's palace. Local artists Dianne Roholt and Gregg Wilimek have made special effects in the stage painting, and Lighting Designer Kelly Kirk will manage the special effects. More than 40 adults worked together behind the scenes in technical and support positions to bring this fully-staged Disney musical to Bemidji.

The cast of 30 includes students from Bemidji High School, Horace May Elementary School, TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School and Schoolcraft Learning Community.

Sean Conlon will return for his second lead in a BCT production as Aladdin, and Hannah Marty has worked herself up from being a minor character in BCT's "Babes in Toyland" to one of the General's daughters in "Pirates" to a lead character, Jasmine in this production.

Jasmine's father, the Sultan, is played by Ernie Rall, who is returning to the stage after spending time as producer for several BCT productions. Rall shares the production manager duties for this show with Natalie Grosfield, treasurer of the PBP.

"Working with Natalie is very easy," Rall said. "Any differences we've had were resolved quickly because we are both very excited about bringing a Disney show to Bemidji."

Hannah Marty's father in real life is Paul Conklin who will play Jafar, the highest ranking official in the Sultan's court and Jasmine's antagonist. BCT also will welcome back Renae Spangler as Jafar's sidekick, the parrot Iago. Razoul will be played by Kelly Kirk, who was last seen in "Pirates" as the sidekick of the Pirate King. The Genie will be Bridget Stomberg, known for her portrayal as one of the Stepsisters in BCT's "Cinderella." Rounding out the major roles is Patricia Heart from Cass Lake, who will play the magic carpet, and narrators will be Julia Conlon and Kaija Roy.

This family-friendly musical will feature familiar songs such as "Arabian Nights," "A Friend Like Me," "Prince Ali" and the innovative staging of "A Whole New World."

This production is made possible through special arrangement with Music Theatre International, and all authorized performance materials were also supplied by MTI.