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CB 6 manager brings Aladdin to Ozone Park stage

By Joe Anuta

Even the wildest Community Board 6 meeting wouldn’t compare to the gym of St. Mary Gate of Heaven School in Ozone Park on a week night.

But that is where Frank Gulluscio, district manager of CB 6, has been moonlighting as a director of a children’s play for the last six months.

“You have to have a lot of patience,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of patience with kids.”

And that patience was on full display Friday evening at one of the final practices for “Aladdin Jr.,” the Broadway-like production that will be performed May 6 and May 7. A casual observer might have thought Gulluscio was deaf as he tuned out the 75 rambunctious students, most of whom sat on the floor of the gymnasium poking and teasing each other, practicing their lines or simply giggling.

They were loud, but it was clear they were having fun.

“I know I’m dealing with all extroverts,” he said. “But they listen to me and know when I’m serious.”

The play, “Aladdin Jr.,” follows the story of a pauper in the Middle East who — with the help of a genie he releases from a magic lamp — poses as royalty to woo the daughter of a sultan, but runs into trouble with an unscrupulous royal adviser named Jafar.

It is a slightly more kid-friendly version of the original Broadway play, but with less singing and choreography.

But that does not mean it is any less professional.

“We’ve learned through the years and have gone from a little thing to a professional production,” Gulluscio said.

He has had plenty of time to hone his craft. Gulluscio has put on a show for more than 30 years.

On Friday, the kids got to rehearse under serious stage lights and used audio equipment rented from a company that also rents to Broadway production companies. The art teacher at the school was painting replicas of backdrops used in the Broadway production.

There were even rumors that a flying carpet would make an appearance.

And as the show has become more professional throughout the years, so have Gulluscio’s helpers. Many kids who were in the play — anyone in first- to eighth-grade can be cast — have returned to help Gulluscio after landing careers in show business.

One student went on to star in the national tour of “Grease.” Another got a master’s in classical music.

Even his son helped out with editing.

One former student named Vinny Napolitano, who now works on the daytime television show “The View,” is helping Gulluscio direct.

He and Gulluscio were still ironing out the kinks Friday.

“To the left!” Gulluscio said to a line of actors exiting the wrong way. “You exit to the left!”

But some of the kids had their parts down, like Anthony Miceli, 13, who played a convincing Jafar.

Miceli has been in the show for five years, but since he is in eighth-grade, this will be his final performance.

“I like hanging out with my friends,” he said in-between scenes. “But when it comes down to the time, we get serious.”

But it has not been all fun and games for Miceli. He had to memorize more than 50 pages of dialogue, according to Gulluscio.

“The older kids carry the show,” he said. “They are the ones that can memorize the lines.”

See it all come together May 6 and May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary Gate of Heaven School, at 103-12 101st Ave. in Ozone Park. Tickets are $8. For information, call 718-846-0689.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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