Words: Steve Brown
To say the hype around Disney’s Aladdin is in full swing would be an understatement.
Well, maybe hype isn’t the best phrase to use. The live-action film adaptation of the classic Disney animation is set to hit cinemas this year and has already received a mixed response despite the trailer only being released.
However, for those who are fans of the classic animation can be rest assured that the stage adaptation does not fail to live up to the high standards of the original Robin Williams-starring film.
For those who don’t know the story – where have you been? – it follows the poor young man Aladdin who is granted three wishes by a genie in a lamp, which he uses to woo a princess and to thwart the sultan's evil Grand Vizier, Jafar.
Opening on the West End back in 2016 after a successful run on Broadway, it’s no surprise the show is a sell out each and every night.
Utilising original songs from the 1992 movie – composed by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice – the musical adaptation does use three songs not featured in the film as well as four brand new songs.
Although most Disney fans would have been happy with the original songs from the film, the new songs are enjoyable, catchy and do not seem out of place.
All the performance of each song were perfect. A particular favourite was Genie’s rendition of ‘Friend Like Me’ where he ends up with a mash-up of other Disney classic songs – something I was not expecting but did not complain about.
Matthew Croke has been performing the role of Aladdin since 2017 and is clearly a veteran as the character and is extremely easy on the eyes.
Broadway Genie, Trevor Dion Nicholas, proves that he is a theatre great with his perfect performance as the powerful entity – a role hard to beat by the late great Williams.
Nicholas’ reputation clearly proceeds him as his entrance on stage each and every time is met with an uproar of applauds from the audience.
For me – and this seems to be a critique for most productions – the supporting cast really do not get the credit they deserve.
Whether it’s the understudies, ensemble cast or characters who are exclusive to the theatre show – Aladdin has three friends instead of his loyal monkey Abu.
The show – which is a Cameron Mackintosh production – does, at some points, feel more of a pantomime but that is by no means a criticism.
It is always hard to think of any stage production of Aladdin being anything more than a pantomime as it has been done to death each and every Christmas but the West End productions excels above the others.
One of these moments is the Magic Carpet ride during the ‘A Whole New World’ song – which you cannot hear without thinking about Katie Price and Peter Andre’s horrendous version.
How are they going to do it? I thought to myself as the scene played out and I was not disappointed… but still completely baffled of how it works.
But my reaction seemed to be mutual with the rest of the audience. Cheers, applauds and gasps of shock echoed around the theatre when Aladdin and Jasmine (played by Courtney Reed) took flight and flew around the set.
It was truly magical!
It is going to be a shame to see the show leave London’s West End this summer and it is highly recommended to see it before it does.
Even if you’re not a Disney fan, the ripped bodies of all the cast should be a reason to see the show.
It is scheduled to close on 31 August 2019, to make way for a revival of Mary Poppins. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.
Photos: Johan Persson and Deen van Meer.