The Never Too Late Players rehearse for “Aladdin.” Annie Horton (left) plays the Genie, Matthew Wilson (back row) is the Emperor, Kim Wetherell (center) is Princess Jasmine and Jim Carroll plays Abanazer. Photo provided

The Never Too Late Players rehearse for “Aladdin.” Annie Horton (left) plays the Genie, Matthew Wilson (back row) is the Emperor, Kim Wetherell (center) is Princess Jasmine and Jim Carroll plays Abanazer. Photo provided

Disney’s “Aladdin” gets South Whidbey spin

Never too much fun for Langley theater ‘elders’

Even Langley’s infamous furry townfolk don’t escape the “Panto” treatment in the production of “Aladdin” by the theater troupe, The Never Too Late Players.

While loosely based on the Disney movie, this musical version is far afield from the standard fairy tale.

For starters, Princess Jasmine is like, really old, over 50 at least.

And the young scamp Aladdin?

Ancient.

Billed as “Aladdin as you have never seen it before,” the play is not only staged by senior citizens, its script is downright wacky.

“It’s silliness and fun and it’s very uplifting,” said director Melinda Mack. “It’s a great show for kids, and adults who’ve had a few glasses of wine.”

“Aladdin” takes the stage the first two weekends of February at the Outcast Black Box Theater at the Fairgrounds in Langley.

Based on the popular British genre called pantomime or Panto, the play takes a familiar story and turns it on its head with contemporary humor, witty dialogue, slapstick, shenanigans and pleas for audience participation.

Boos, hisses and cheers are encouraged and part of Panto’s playful audience interaction.

“Panto has been around a long time in England,” Mack said. “Think ‘I Love Lucy’ meets ‘Monty Python.’”

Suzanne Kelman, who grew up in Birmingham, England, says pantomime is performed all over the country, and often by celebrities.

Getting a gig in a local Panto play, “is a big, big, deal,” said Kelman, who plays a guard at the Imperial Palace.

“It’s so much fun,” she added. “There’s lots of opportunity to make fun of the locals but it’s mostly tongue in cheek. Even a bit about the bunnies of Langley we got in.”

This is the second Panto production for The Never Too Late Players that require cast members be at least 50 years old.

Last year’s production, “Knight Fever” combined “Camelot” with “Saturday Night Fever” and sold out. Opening night happened to fall on the evening of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“It was a really good thing to do that day, take in the show,” Mack recalled. “People needed something to lift their spirits. Also in the dark of winter, people need support.

“This provides pure laughter, joy, fun, play. It’s very silly but it’s also very positive.”

But a Panto play can be bumpy on old bones.

“It’s not that we’re super old,” Mack pointed out. “But it’s a very physical kind of acting. And we all have some ‘spot.’ So you hear, ‘Oh, my right knee, my left hip, my shoulder.’”

And their memories aren’t what they used to be.

“When you’re this old, you forget your lines,” Kelman laughed. “When that happens, someone usually steps in and says, ‘I think you were going to tell us…’”

Many of the cast members will be familiar to South Whidbey theater-goers from numerous Whidbey Island Center for the Arts programs. Others haven’t acted since high school or college.

None expected to shine under the spotlight again.

“When you’re old, you never think you’ll be a princess again,” Mack remarked. “But Kim Wetherell, our princess Jasmine, is in her 50s and she’s knocking it out of the park.”

The Never Too Late Players will perform a quirky version of “Aladdin” at the Fairground’s Outcast Black Box Theater in February. The cast includes Annie Horton ( left, back row) Jim Scullin (center) Matthew Wilson (right.) In the front row, Kim Wetherell (left) and Shannon O’Phelan. Photo provided

The Never Too Late Players will perform a quirky version of “Aladdin” at the Fairground’s Outcast Black Box Theater in February. The cast includes Annie Horton ( left, back row) Jim Scullin (center) Matthew Wilson (right.) In the front row, Kim Wetherell (left) and Shannon O’Phelan. Photo provided

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