Disney has had a chequered history when it comes to stage musicals. The Disneyfication of Broadway may have done wonders for New York’s tourism industry but it hasn’t always worked wonders for theatregoers themselves. For every brilliant Lion King
there’s a bland Tarzan
; for every charming Little Mermaid
there’s a charmlessly overblown Mary Poppins
; for every magical Beauty And The Beast
there’s a misjudged Hunchback Of Notre Dame
(which never even made it beyond out-of-town tryouts).
The stage version of Aladdin
occupies the middle ground. The 1992 film, a key player in Disney's animation renaissance, is quite brilliant thanks to some great songs from the dream team of composer Alan Menken and lyricists Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, a fast-paced plot and the bonkers ad-libbing of the late, great Robin Williams as the Genie who pops out of his lantern to grant our hero the wishes that will help him win the heart of Princess Jasmine.
Let's get the gripes about the stage show out of the way first: Moving into a Prince Edward Theatre recently vacated by Miss Saigon
, it’s an altogether sprightlier night out but its pure pantomime and it feels scaled down. The energetically-performed big numbers need double the amount of dancers, the scenery should be more lavish and the leads - former Sugababe Jade Ewan (criminally, there's no mention of her girlband past in the programme) and Middlesborough up-and-comer Dean John-Wilsom - lack the chemistry, not to mention the vocal chops, to make the romance truly soar.
There’s a lot to enjoy though - not least Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie: Imported from Broadway and possessed of such charisma his every entrance gets a huge round of applause, he’s an absolute blast, immediately boosting the show’s energy levels whenever he’s on stage. Meanwhile, the central message from the film - be who you are and then you'll find true love - couldn't be more pertinent and, to be totally trivial, if leading man Dean's Singing is a bit weak, his pecs sure are impressive.
is a flawed show, but certainly not without its pleasures. And in an era of stage production where where a carpet can take off during A Whole New World
and you've absolutely no idea how they do, there are some truly magical moments.
Aladdin is at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. For more information and tickets call 0844 482 5151 or visit aladdinthemusical.co.uk. Follow the show on Twitter @AladdinLondon.
For the best deals on tickets and shows, visit tickets.attitude.co.uk.
Words: Simon Button
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