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“Aladdin” brings Disney magic back to Broadway (review) March 19, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Uncategorized.
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I have previously reviewed Aladdin when seen in its pre-Broadway tryout in Toronto. I now follow with an updated review of the Broadway production as seen today in NYC (the official opening night is tomorrow night). And what has occurred between the show’s pre-Broadway tryouts and now is magic in itself.

I liked the show in Toronto. I loved it in New York. The musical has been pumped-up in color, tempo, and stage spectacle — and my single complaint about the Toronto production was the lack of typical Disney “magic” — but its back. The numerous subtle (and some not-so-subtle) changes all work in the show’s favor — and its quickly rising to the top of the list of musicals to beat this year in many categories.

The movie’s 6 songs are augmented by 14 new numbers (though some are reprises). Some of them were written for the movie and cut, others are original (with additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin). The other biggest problem (what to do with Aladdin’s three “boyband” buddies) here has been resolved as well. They are now integrated into the production. Overall the musical numbers work well, and the book’s broad jokes all land well.

The magic, of course, is nowhere more evident than that starlit magic carpet ride during “A Whole new World” — and it’s become even more fascinating since the design team has gone on record to state the the illusion is NOT done with wires. I have zero idea how they did it, and I’m pretty tech savvy with these things. The remainder of the show’s illusions are stage-tricks that work well throughout. But oh, that carpet…which now appears in the curtain call as well, in full light, with no visible means of floatation — I love it.

But close on its heals are the two major production numbers in the show: “A Friend like me” is a bone-fide show stopper — it got a standing ovation mid-show…and “Prince Ali” pumps up the costumes and glamour — and by itself should earn Aladdin this year’s Best Costume award at Tony time.

Also sure to win a Tony is featured actor James Monroe Iglehart as Genie. Its an all-around star turn from this man who has to follow in Robin Williams movie shadow. His is a crowd pleasing, but also very talented, performance from beginning to end. The rest of the cast remains intact from its pre-Broadway tryouts in Seattle and Toronto.

Overall, Aladdin is a fun, funny, and entertaining evening of Disney Theatricals magic — and it has found a long long tenure at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street. What fun it has been to follow its development along the way. Recommended.

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Disney’s Aladdin the musical, Toronto (review) pre-Broadway December 31, 2013

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
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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.