Stuck in a palace and hidden from the world, the life of a princess in Peking is awfully lonely.
As Princess Sushi, Narisa Vence Windover imagines she hasn’t a friend in the world.
“Aside from my guards, my father and nanny, I don’t see anyone else,” laments the 16-year-old Thomas Haney secondary student, who plays the spoiled patrician in SPECC-tacular Productions annual Christmas pantomime.
Anyone who dares to sneak a peek of the precious princess loses their head.
So it’s no wonder Sushi falls head over heels in love with Aladdin, who defies the Emperor’s edict and flies into her bedroom.
“He’s the first person to stand up against the law,” says Vence Windover.
“I am amazed that someone would care enough about me to want to stand up to my father.”
Vence Windover has been honing her petulant, spoiled-side to play a convincing princess who has every need catered to.
Her Princess Sushi teems with sass.
“It’s a borderline of a narcissistic,” she says, explaining how she asked her dad, who is a police officer, for help to create her character based on the “sassiest” teenagers he’s dealt with.
Pretending she’s in love with Aladdin hasn’t been hard, however.
“What brings our characters romantically together is that fact that we are so far apart,” says Vence Windover. Aladdin and his entourage travel from China to India, Egypt and back.
“I think: this is why I have to be strong, so we can finally be together.”
The magical cast of characters has been rehearsing for the panto since September.
Vence Windover is among several actors who are new to SPECC-tacular’s troupe this year, including Joshua Nicholas, who plays the Demon, Jenna Diersch (the Ring Genie), Kia Paquette (the Genie of the Lamp), Grace Tan (Yoo Hoo), and Trevor Gysbertsen, who has left the backstage to star as Aladdin.
Gysbertsen, 21, says his Aladdin is a product of sarcasm.
“Having to deal with a hugely over-the-top mother and a trouble-maker brother, he kind of has to take things with a grain of salt.”
He’s the grounded character who is constantly questioning the bizarre events around him,
When he finds a genie and becomes rich, he’s a tad incredulous at first.
“I think Aladdin is a lot like me,” says Gysbertsen as Princess Sushi jokes that Aladdin is just a “pretty boy.”
“He’s a goal-oriented person.” His mother is as a crazy as a bat, his brother is the village idiot. Aladdin has to step up and get everyone to calm down, he adds.
The cast also includes seasoned veterans: Su Wolfe, as Fairy Liquid; Ed Marshall, as the Emperor; Pauline De Silva, as Hang Lo; Mike Stusiak, as the crafty Abanaza; Brandalyn Meskas, as Police Officer Ping; and Lynsey Teasdale, as Police Officer Pong.
Backing up this wonderful cast of characters is a delivery boy played by Elliot Banbury and a host of villagers played by Tyson Aubin, Jess Piper Douglas, Kimie Takusagawa, Faith Tan, Ella Nicholas, Sally Davis and Mia Martinez.
As artistic director, Marshall must coral the cast and make sure they deliver his vision of a wondrous, laugh-a-minute world.
Aladdin is the 14th panto he’s directed.
The key to success, he says, is finding a good script.
With a script as the foundation, it’s easy to layer choreography, special effects, innuendo and slap-stick jokes.
“My vision was to make it as magical as possible and visually pleasing, so there is lots of colour, lots of glitter, lots of sparkle,” he says.
• Aladdin opens Friday, Dec. 13 at the ACT. For tickets and more dates, visit theactmapleridge.org.