Based on the 1992 Disney film of the same name, the musical Aladdin follows the titular orphan, who finally gets the chance to transcend his life as a starving “street rat” after ending up in possession of a magical genie and strives to win the heart of the beautiful princess Jasmine, who is being pressured to find a husband by her father but forbidden to marry below her station.
As one of the many who grew up watching the original movie, nostalgia was a key part of Aladdin’s appeal, and I enjoyed the chance to see my childhood favorites reimagined and creatively staged by director and choreographer Casey Nicolaw in numbers like “One Jump Ahead” and “Arabian Nights.”
However, I found not all of the new material added in the transition to musical nearly engaging. Though “Proud of Your Boy,” a song cut from the original movie, at least serves to deepen Aladdin’s character, I don’t think we really need not one but two reprises of it or even necessarily need it at all for the relatively simple narrative to function. In a similar vein, an added song for Jasmine, “These Palace Walls,” is a somewhat by-the-numbers “I want” song in which the character only expresses inclinations that were already pretty evident.
Senzel Ahmady (Jasmine) and Company. Aladdin Tour. [Photo: Deen van Meer (c) Disney]
Other additions and subplots only serve to unnecessarily pad or even muddle the story, particularly the decision to replace Aladdin’s monkey sidekick Abu with a goofy trio of friends named Babkak, Omar, and Kassim. Their inclusion does make for some comedic moments, such as when the trio run in slow motion during the song “High Adventure” or in the recurrent jokes about Babkak’s all-consuming appetite. However, it felt as if their bond with Aladdin not only didn’t quite land emotionally but took away from the stakes and arc of the original movie by making Aladdin less isolated at the outset.
Jake Letts, Ben Chavez, Adi Roy, Colt Prattes in Aladdin Tour. [Photo: Deen van Meer]
Overall, I would say that not enough was accomplished by the nearly hour’s worth of additions, which took the show up to 2 and a half hours including an intermission given a 90 minute movie run time, to justify keeping the younger audience members up so far past their bedtimes. Yet one thing that definitely was done right in this adaptation was in the show’s top-notch technical elements, which left me genuinely amazed at more than one moment. While I remain hesitant about shows that seem to cash in on spectacle at the expense of depth, when the spectacle on display is as genuinely spectacular as it was in Aladdin, it can be hard to hold that conviction!
More than once, lights flicker across the backdrop to forecast the sudden appearance or disappearance of the Genie, and another character vanishes in a puff of smoke at one pivotal moment. Stunning projections emanate from the Cave of Wonders, and its interior is a genuine megawatt marvel. But most impressive of all is the stage magic of “A Whole New World,” which sets Jasmine and Aladdin against a shimmering backdrop and takes them up and about the stage on a marvelous magic carpet.
Marcus M. Martin as Genie. Aladdin Tour. [Photo: Deen van Meer (c) Disney]
Then there are the amazing costumes, all of which dazzle and many of which literally sparkle, which got almost distracting during the dialogue sequences but only added pizzazz to the already excellent dance numbers, and were especially noticeable in Act 2 opener “Prince Ali.” And if all that weren’t enough glitter for ya, the finale comes complete with an explosion of silver and blue streamers.
This adaptation also adds a good deal of humor in the additional pop culture references inserted into the genie’s dialogue and into the musical number “Friend Like Me,” which impressively manages to measure up to the movie’s manic extravaganza and is especially enjoyable in the hands of actor Marcus M. Martin, probably the show’s standout performer.
Marcus M. Martin, Adi Roy and Company in Aladdin Tour. [Photo: Deen van Meer]
As for the rest of the show’s cast, Anand Nagraj is appropriately menacing as the evil Jafar, while Aaron Choi garnered plenty of laughs with his cartoonish portrayal of Iago, who in this version is a parrot-like henchman instead of the genuine article. Senzel Ahmady’s rich voice soars throughout Jasmine’s songs, and though Adi Roy was a little more uneven vocally in his portrayal of Aladdin, the two made for an overall eminently watchable pair of leading players.
A shorter act two saw the characters move through the remaining complications to make it to the inevitable happy ending, which still struck enough of a cord to make the show’s journey feel worthwhile. At least together with all the glitter, it was enough to make me mostly forget the first act’s flaws and to send what seemed like most of the audience out on a high note.
Adi Roy as Aladdin in Aladdin Tour. [Photo by Deen van Meer. (c) Disney]