★★★★ | Aladdin
Disney has done it again. They’ve produced another musical based on one of their very popular animated movies – this time it’s Aladdin.
Already playing on Broadway where it opened in 2014 to very good reviews, Aladdin takes the colorful animated movie and successfully transfers it to the stage. It’s a production so colourful, so full of life, with quite a few memorable scenes, that it’s likely this show will follow in the footsteps of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast in entertaining lots of children (and adults) for years to come.
Of course the Aladdin film is most famous for Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie. It was a natural fit; his huge character persona so in line with the genie’s. In the stage version, the genie is just as memorable (played by a campy and very funny Trevor Dion Nicholas), who practically steals every scene he’s in. He can grant three wishes in this love story between Aladdin (Dean John-Wilson) and the Princess Jasmine (Jade Ewen). Aladdin is poor, and hangs out with a trio of losers and thugs in the town of Agrabah. Meanwhile Princess Jasmine is very unwilling to enter into an arranged marriage by her father the Sultan (Irvine Iqbal). But lurking in the background is the Sultan’s Prime Minister Jafar (Don Gallagher) – his right hand man – who wants to overthrow the Sultan and will do whatever it takes to do so. This entails locating a dangerous cave where there’s a special lamp that grants wishes.
Back in town, Princess Jasmine dresses as a commoner and walks around town and meets Aladdin. They’re smitten with each other but the romance hits a rocky start when Aladdin gets arrested for being in the palace. He’s saved by Jafar, who enlists him to go into the cave to retrieve the lamp. But it’s Aladdin who, accidentally, gets to own the lamp, and like in the film, he has three wishes to make, wishes that will not only change his life but the lives of his friends and Princess Jasmine as well.
Aladdin is not a perfect musical. There’s not very many memorable musical numbers (except the well-known ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘A Whole New World,’ which plays out on a magic carpet flying above the stage with the stars twinkling all around. It’s a magical and mesmerizing scene).
John-Wilson is good as Aladdin, but he doesn’t wow us. Gallagher as the evil Prime Minister is especially good. He’s evil, cunning and very clever, with the aide of his assistant Iago (Peter Howe).
Former UK Eurovision contestant Ewen, as Princess Jasmine, is very good and proves that she can sing AND act. However it’s Dion Nicholas as the genie who you will cheer and applaud. But it’s the sets, wow the sets, that are the real star of the show.
Moroccan deserts, palaces, villages, sunsets, and perfect costumes are all worth the ticket price. And while Aladdin resurrects the story and music written for the 1992 movie by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice and the late Howard Ashman, it’s no Lion King but it sure comes close.
Alladin plays at the Prince Edward Theatre (London)
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.