TURNER – Disney’s “Aladdin, Jr.,” Central Maine Children’s Theater Project’s next show, “will be among the best we’ve done,” enthused 14-year-old Jesse Juntura of Greene, who has been with the project since its first production four years ago.

Juntura has acted in every CMCTP and will play Aladdin in “Aladdin, Jr.,” the project’s seventh production and its second this year, having staged “Willy Wonka, Jr.” earlier this summer.

The 70-minute, two-act “Aladdin, Jr.” is “very similar to the movie” – with all the interesting characters you remember, said Rebecca Poppke, CMCTP artistic director.

“Aladdin, Jr.” is the product of a summer day camp that CMCTP runs from Leavitt Area High School. “It’s a little professional organization,” said Poppke, explaining that the kids work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning in mid-July and ending with the presentation of their show in August.

But it’s not all rehearsal. As part of the camp, the children also play theater games, according to Poppke.

“I enjoy the intense, full-week practice,” said Juntura, speaking about the summer day camp. “You get to know people better. It’s a lot of fun.”

Juntura will enter high school next year, so this will be his last show, but he plans on continuing to work with the program out of the spotlight. “I’m going to do as much helping as I can,” he said. “I want to still be at every rehearsal.”

The CMCTP, now in its fourth year, runs two shows annually and organizes a permanent children’s choir. The project “was established to enhance musical theater education for children in grades 3-9,” said Poppke. It is put on by MSAD 52 River Valley Adult and Community Education in Turner and is open to all local kids.

Poppke is not only the project’s artistic director, she is directing “Aladdin, Jr., with assistance from Lacey Moyse, assistant director and choreographer.

“This show has been particularly challenging,” Poppke said, “because we have over 35 kids involved.”

The project is open to kids entering grades 4 through 9. While most of the lead roles in “Aladdin, Jr.” went to project veterans, the parts of Iago, Abu and Jasmine will be played by relatively young actors. “The girl who plays Jasmine is only eleven,” noted Poppke.

“The children are inspiring because they do such good work,” she said, and have put in the serious effort required for a production of this scale.

“Aladdin, Jr.” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9., at Leavitt Area High School. Tickets are $5. For more information, e-mail Poppke at [email protected]

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