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Le Cirque Centre presents 'Aladdin' at Mountain Avenue Theater

One of the most breathtaking moments of Le Cirque Centre's aerial theater production of "Aladdin" comes when a girl playing the evil character Jafar plunges dozens of feet in an apparent freefall.

"Jafar will be on a looped rope hanging from the ceiling called a cloud swing," promises Lorenzo SantaBarbara, director and choreographer of the production. "He's jealously watching Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Then Jafar just falls from the ceiling and is caught by his ankles. It will startle people, but the girl playing Jafar has no fear." 

Le Cirque Centre, a circus-training program based in Ashland, will stage "Aladdin" at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, June 6, in the Mountain Avenue Theater on the Ashland High School campus, 201 S. Mountain Ave. Tickets cost $15 and are available at Music Coop, 268 E. Main St., Ashland.

"People will be entertained," SantaBarbara says. "They will love the show. The music and the scenery and the athleticism will wow people."

Most of the major roles will be played by Le Cirque Centre students who have trained for five to seven years, he says.

Alex Webb will play Aladdin, a street urchin who lives in a busy Arabian town with his faithful monkey friend, Abu. In the performance, Aladdin meets Princess Jasmine — played by Sophia Hajje — who sneaks out of her palace, where she is kept by her sultan father.

The dastardly character Jafar, played by both Sonora Jessup and Simran Chavallier, tries to break up a budding romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Meanwhile, Aladdin must try to retrieve a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Plot twists abound as Aladdin, then Jafar, discover a magic genie lives in the lamp and will grant each of them three wishes.

"People will see kids flying from the ceiling. We'll be on trapeze and rope and hoops," SantaBarbara says.

Le Cirque Centre students in the performance commit to a 90-minute physical training class each week, a two-hour technique class and weekend rehearsals. The students are drawn from across the Rogue Valley, from Ashland to Central Point.

"These kids really work hard and put in hours of focused work and training," SantaBarbara says.

Core and upper body strength are critical for performing acrobatics in the show. Students must also learn the safety and technical aspects of aerial theater.

In past years, Le Cirque Centre has staged performances in the Historic Ashland Armory on Oak Street. Audiences sit at floor level and look up at the stage.

For this performance, the production has moved to the Mountain Avenue Theater, which boasts a stage surrounded by seats that rise up in a traditional theater formation.

SantaBarbara said the move was made possible after Le Cirque Centre proved its mettle with a successful February performance at the Craterian Theater in downtown Medford.

Mountain Avenue Theater managers allowed Le Cirque Centre to put in a truss system to support its aerial acrobat performers.

Le Cirque Centre is renting a 40-foot-wide-by-20-foot-high scenery picture of a palace from a Los Angeles organization. It also plans dramatic effects for the Cave of Wonders, where the genie's lantern is hidden.

"It's all done in black light, and the characters will be luminous. It will create a whole other world," SantaBarbara says.

Other performers in "Aladdin" will include Amelee Crofoot as the sultan, Allie Poole as the genie, Ella Amaratico as Abu the monkey, Maya Leiberman as Iago, Leah Herskowitz as Rajah and Halle Lowe as a merchant.

For people inspired by the performance, Le Cirque Centre offers classes for kids, teens and adults ranging from beginner to professional level. Week-long youth circus camps are scheduled in June, July and August.

The center also has classes with training in hula hoops, juggling, unicycle riding, stilt walking and other ground-based circus skills.

For more information, call 541-301-6804 or see www.socircus.org.

Sophia Hajje and Alex Webb appear in Le Cirque Centre's production of 'Aladdin.' Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell