Arts / A little magic comes to the north

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Amy Dunham as Princess Jasmin and Tim Sekuless in the title role in "Aladdin". Photo by Steve McGrory
Amy Dunham as Princess Jasmine and Tim Sekuless in the title role in “Aladdin”. Photo by Steve McGrory

IF you’re into showbiz, life in Gungahlin has its limits, says Canberra musical director, pianist, bandleader and mum Leisa Keen as she embarks on a holiday production of “Aladdin” bringing fun to the kids of the north.

Armed with a first-class cast of actor-friends and line-up dancers provided by Michelle Heine, of Legs Dance School, Keen is directing the show, making all the costumes and headwear and even playing a cameo part as the Empress Oolong.

“Clearly I didn’t have enough to do,” Keen jokes as she tells “CityNews” that this will be a proper traditional panto, complete with pop songs to please the kids and corny jokes with double entendre for their parents.

Yes, Aladdin’s mum the Widow Twankey (originally named after a tea) will be there and the wicked fake uncle, the beautiful princess, the genie and the unlikely hero, Aladdin himself.

There will be plenty of panto jokes such as “He’s behind you” or “Oh, no you’re not (oh, yes I am)” from David Cannell as the Dame, arch villainy from Michael Moore as the wicked uncle/magician Abanazar, laziness from Tim Sekuless as Aladdin, beauty from Amy Dunham as Princess Jasmine, gags from Fraser Findlay as the comic laundryman Wishee Washee and magic from Max Gambale as the Slave of the Lamp.

Amy Dunham as Princess Jasmin. Photo by Steve McGrory
Amy Dunham as Princess Jasmine. Photo by Steve McGrory

Much of the production, Keen says, will be familiar, with the Widow’s Chinese laundry and Aladdin’s fantasy palace conjured up from the paintbrush of veteran set designer Ian Croker. But watch out for the magical flying carpet, created by the animators at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Watson, who are using projections and other genie-like tricks to give the impression of motion.

Keen praises the theatrical efforts of director Richard Block, whose productions of musicals such as “Into The Woods” and “Catch Me If You Can” have been attracting adult audiences to the impressive theatre facility at Gungahlin College. But that’s not much help to little ones like Keen’s two sons, Josh, aged nearly 4 and Ben, nearly 3.

With this in mind, she and her musician/photographer partner Steve McGrory have formed an entertainment company in following their mutual dream to create something new for Gungahlin.

Keen is a top musical director-coach (think “The Phantom of the Opera” and Rep’s “Showtune”) and keeps up a cracking pace as one of Canberra’s most sought-after voice and piano teachers.

“My diary is pretty full,” she says, especially the after-school slot, which she is locked into before she picks up the boys from childcare.

Keen says: “There is a sad lack of entertainment in the Gungahlin area for children, so we have bitten the bullet and are now trying to rectify that situation”.

“Aladdin”, Gungahlin Theatre, July 6-16, two shows a day. Bookings to

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