Stop reading, and go buy them. This is “Lion King” big. This is “plan a vacation around the tickets you can get” big. It’s fun, it’s spectacular, and will please almost every theater-goer. (Except for a few theater reviewers. There’s always one.)
I’ll wait. Splurge and buy orchestra seats. Lower half of the alphabet. Done?
After a long and evolutionary production (starting in Seattle in July 2011), Disney’s Aladdin had its first preview on Broadway Wednesday night. (It officially opens March 20th.) Replacing a reworked Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theater, Aladdin takes the plot, characters, and award-winning music from the animated movie, reinstates characters and music cut from the film, then add another four new songs on top of that! (Chad Beguelin, who wrote the book of the play, penned the four new songs, joining Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. Sure, it’s Disney, and one expects a spectacle, but aside from Jonathan Freeman, who reprises his role from the movie as Jafar, the rest of the cast is mostly unknown, yet talented.
I was more curious about how this production deviated from the movie, and how certain scenes would be translated for the stage.
Reveals and transformations were done as one would expect, with rapid costume changes and ingenious trap doors. The Genie steals the show with his dancing, singing, and free association. The book follows his lead, adding fun lines for the rest of the cast. This is more of a comedy than the movie was, and there is quite a bit of Broadway jokes, breaking of the fourth wall, and some sly references to Disney. (Although the “Prince Ali” number did not include any puppets from The Lion King.)
How broad was the humor? I was laughing at bits that others missed (like a brief musical reference to West Side Story).
The sets are intricate, yet minimal (aside from the Cave of Wonders, site of the “Friend Like Me” number), with the curtain serving as a frequent backdrop. Lighting adds much to the design, especially to the “Whole New World” number (which otherwise didn’t impress me).
Costuming…if Disney publishes a book of the production, buy it! Even from twenty rows back, fabric sparkled, swirled, and mesmerized. Lots of sequins, sparkles, and material sourced from nine countries!
The choreography worked well, with few gymnastics. Like the music, the dancing was eclectic… tap, chorus, flamenco, jazz, and what seemed to be ersatz Bollywood.
Overall, it was an enjoyable evening. Kids will enjoy it, adults will laugh at the sly jokes, and theater geeks will have lots to squeal about.
Here’s one of the new songs from the musical: