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Suwanee Performing Arts conjures up magic with 'Aladdin'

Exotic locales and beautiful maidens, a magical genie and all kinds of dance will fill the Suwanee Town Center Park stage this weekend as Suwanee Performing Arts Inc. presents "Aladdin" and "Ali Babba and the 40 Thieves." And it's free.

Spokesman Jeffrey Scott Bailey, fresh from filming on the set of the new Miley Cyrus movie, has a lot of enthusiasm for the two shows.

"Our mission is to provide professional level musical performances to the Gwinnett public, and we are really delivering with these two shows," Bailey said.

The performances will be tonight and Saturday. "Ali Babba" begins at 8 p.m. and "Aladdin" at 9 p.m.

"The 'Aladdin' production will be very different from the Disney movie," Bailey, the show's director and choreographer, said. "We came at it from a totally different angle. I wanted to contemporize the show. Now it's more like a rock concert combined with a '70s disco."

"Aladdin" has a cast of approximately 35 and "Ali Babba" approximately 30. Contemporary Christian Recording Artist Paul Tate serves as music director.

Playing the leads will be a group of talented local teens. Steven Jones is Aladdin, Jordan Forte is Jasmine, while Kayla Humphries is the Genie. Abby Capri is Iago and Alex Cornell will play Jafar. The five narrators will be Lauren Dawidowicz, Emily McDonald, Christina Daves, Olivia Hyatt and Lucy Gross.

"We knew we're not getting Robin Williams to play the Genie, but we have Kayla with this great voice. She's a terrific pop/gospel, Patti Labelle-type. And the dance numbers are off the page. They go from dream ballets, contemporary numbers, hip hop, to classic jazz," Bailey said.

Another remarkable facet to the production is the special effects. "Our lighting and sound is by In Concert Productions who have created effects for every big name in the business," Bailey said. "Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keyes, even Cirque du Soliel. Their representative Jay Rabbitt has been an incredible partner with us. This fabulous company is bringing the most professional staff and designers to produce the highest quality performance."

The young performers are being well prepared for a professional career as well. "They rehearse as if this is an Equity show," Bailey said. "They work hard six to seven hours a day and even vote when to take breaks, just as if they were on an Equity show."

"Ali Babba and the 40 Thieves" is part of Suwanee Performing Arts' "Page to Stage" program where new writers and composers submit work that would compliment the theme of the planned program. "Ali Babba" definitely fits the bill thematically. Writers Teri Kahn, Patty Etherton and Berneta Bock Davis, along with Bailey, created the show.

Although the performances are free to the public, 80 sponsor tables with catering by Ippolito's are available front and center. These special tables can be reserved by calling 678-482-6333.

To learn more about Suwanee Performing Arts, Inc., go to the Web site at www.suwaneeacademyofthearts.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.