Disney magic has struck again, as the stage adaptation of the animated film Aladdin comes to London’s Prince Edward Theatre.
Utilising songs from the original animated film, songs that were dis-guarded from the film, and new songs that have been written for the stage show, Aladdin is a musical gem, full of show-stopping moments. Alan Menken remains the king of melody, you’ll find it hard not to leave the theatre singing the songs that you’ve enjoyed during the show. Howard Ashman’s contribution to Aladdin has been restored, and the lyrics to Proud Of Your Boy, are some of the most moving to be heard in a Disney score in a long time.
Director/ choreographer Casey Nicholaw, imbues Aladdin with all the show business pizazz he can muster. Large-scale production numbers abound. Friend Like Me all but stops the show in the early part of Act One and is a tour de force. Nicholaw’s success with The Book Of Mormon and Something Rotten have established him as an enormous theatrical force and this production of Aladdin firmly shows off his ability to entertain and to please an audience.
Bob Crowley has created a magical jewel box of a set. It’s been a long time since I have heard an audience gasp with delight, but the audible reaction to the cave of wonders, was something incredible and beautiful to behold. Crowley has in large part been responsible for the visual magic of this production, as the genie appears and disappears at will throughout the night. Together with lighting designer Natasha Katz, Crowley has created one of the most colourful shows that I have seen in a long while. Greg Barnes' costumes look like a million dollars. Rich, opulent and bejewelled with so much bling, that the sparkle can be seen from the back of the theatre. They combine with the sets and other production elements to leave the audience with no doubt that they are getting their money’s worth.
Musical Director Alan Williams and his top notch orchestra inject pizazz into Danny Troobs superb orchestrations. It’s a big brassy sound that has been sorely lacking in the West End of late, and it’s great to see crowds staying behind to enjoy the playout and applauding this dynamic show orchestra.
Aladdin as a show is dominated by the force of nature that is Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie. This genie explodes off the stage with a theatrical wattage that is nothing short of nuclear. Imported from the Broadway production of Aladdin, it’s impossible to imagine this production without him.
Dean John Wilson is an amiable Aladdin. He’s constantly moving throughout the show, full of energy and taking every opportunity to bounce off Nicholas’s Genie. Jade Ewen’s Jasmine is slight and beautiful to look at, but doesn’t have the ability to rise above the production, which is a shame. Their duet A Whole New World is spectacular and well worth the price of admission alone. It provides a breath-taking moment to gaze in awe after the big production numbers that have come before it.
This stage production sees the re-instated characters of Babkak (Nathan Amzi), Omar (Rachid Sabitri), and Kassim (Stephen Rahman-Hughes), Aladdin’s comic partners in crime. Brilliantly performed, these three are simply wonderful to watch, and their enjoyment on stage infectious.
Top marks must go to Aladdin’s hard-working ensemble. I gave up counting the number of costume changes that this hard-working bunch were undertaking and simply gave in to the spectacle and fun, as this group of performers conjured up hundreds of characters in the Arabian desert. Bravo!
As the show’s evil duo, Don Gallagher (Jafar) and Peter Howe (Iago) are as perfect as you could possibly hope for. Gallagher’s large stage presence both physically and vocally, perfectly offset the cartoon presence of Howe’s Iago. They play perfectly off each other. Gallagher's final scene is simply magnificent, a true baddie meeting a timely end.
Whilst the pantomime comparison is inevitable, this production of Aladdin, is a big hit show that is perfectly at home in London’s West End. It’s a fast paced, energetic and supremely satisfying night at the theatre, and I daresay one that people will want to return to such is the joy that it brings.