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Carol Woods and Louise DuArt get top billing in this high energy musical re-telling of the Aladdin fairy tale. Rightly so. Woods powerhouse gospel style could blow down a building. Louise DuArt's campy drop-of-a-hat impersonator genie is genuinely funny. The entire cast is to be commended for their untiring and agile moves up and down Michael Schweikardt's industrial staircase set which cleverly expands the Beckett stage's otherwise limited move-around space. Two back panels that are lit in different colors support this sensible approach to creating the aura of a larger stage.

I can't tell you about the other top-rated member of the sextet cast, Aileen Quinn --(Hollywood's Annie)--was sick on the night I attended. Her absence hardly affected the show since it's dominated by the campier players of the sextet cast which include David Figlioli as a grossly overdone wicked vizier and Steven Minichiello as a gay camel desperately trying to out-cage Robin Williams (Minichiello directed a cabaret show called, you guessed it, House of La Cage Revue). Since this is the story of Aladdin, I should mention that Evan Ferrante who doubles as New York City street kid and prince-in-the-making, has an appealing persona and voice. His voice, as well as everyone else's, would sound a lot better if the instrumental accompaniment were toned down and the miking dispensed with. Non-miked singing should be a major pleasure of this type of intimate setting--especially with a powerhouse voice like Carole Wood's which was at times so overwhelming that I felt I was at a rock concert.

The musical numbers are catchy and fun, though the composer/lyricist Sal Lombarde would serve his music better if he partnered up with a more sophisticated lyricist. As for the show's dramatic concept, it doesn't come off childlike and magical enough for kids and its adult audience appeal is more for those nurtured on television than theater fare. The now bits of business tend to emphasize this small screen-over-theater sensibility.

Too bad Lombarde and John Pantozzi who wrote the book and directs, didn't create a straight revue without straining to add a modern sheen to this antique fairy tale. If they did, Dreamstuff might be that theatrical dream come true--an off-Broadway musical with on-Broadway legs. ©right February 1997, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.

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