Disney’s Aladdin the musical, Toronto (review) pre-Broadway

Disney’s Aladdin the musical is currently playing in Toronto pre-Broadway. It comes as no surprise that the show is slick, looks great, and is basically Broadway-ready. It is also one of the least magical Disney live-stage musicals, but that’s largely a part of the weak movie upon which it is based. There is nothing wrong with it overall and I liked it very much — but somehow that Disney “magic” just didn’t jump out at me.

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Chad Beguelin has done a very good job of adapting the movie script, adding a magic-carpet-load of one-liners (many of the groaner variety), and adding additional lyrics to the Menken-Ashman-Rice score. Casey Nicholaw’s direction and choreography are relatively subdued given his background (Book of Morman, Elf, The Drowsy Chaperone), and I am quite certain that there were no hip-hop moves in old Araby…but its efficient and  generally energetic.  Bob Crowley’s set design ranges from stunning to passable – its all lovely to look at (think Aida more than Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King), but everything seems a bit subdued. Maybe it’s all the beige and sand-colored sets

Adam Jacobs is an attractive Aladdin, and Courtney Reed a very assured Jasmine. Maybe too assured.  James Monroe Inglehart brings a much-needed levity to the affair once he arrives as the Genie, and he seemed to particularly ignite the wee-ones in the audience.

The piece-de-resistance, of course, is that magic carpet ride during “A Whole New World” and it is worth the price of admission by itself — it swoops, flies, glides, and provides sheer musical theater magic. The rest of the show’s stage illusions are good, though nothing comes close to that three minute flying sequence.

I’m going to go on record to say that of the contemporary Disney canon of films, Aladdin is one of the weakest, and its adaptation to the stage will leave you feeling pretty much the same way you did when viewing the film — you’ll either love it, or you’ll leave the theater thinking it is a great show for the kiddies without offering you much more from an adult point of view. Sadly, I fall into that later camp.

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